Interview with Dr Brian Burton

                  Today, Blue Bilby has an interview with Dr Brian Burton of Burton’s Media Group, author of the books Mobile App Development with […]
Mobile App Development with Corona book

Mobile App Development with Corona book










Today, Blue Bilby has an interview with Dr Brian Burton of Burton’s Media Group, author of the books Mobile App Development with Corona and Beginning Mobile App Development with Corona.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into programming.
A: A little about myself? Let’s see, I just celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary with my beautiful wife Rosemary. I have 2 children: Brandon & Brianna (both in college). I have been teaching computer programming and information technology for.. wow, 20+ years now!
I got my start in the early 80’s programming a TRS-80. Even though I was told it was a ‘fad’, I stuck with programming and working on computers.. to the point that I used the money saved up to buy a first car to buy a computer instead. Fortunately the money I made programming computers allowed me to get a car later.

Q: Which languages have you developed in? Have you always developed for mobile devices or do you cover other platforms?
A: Being an ‘old-timer’ in Computer Science, I’ve programmed in more than a few languages: BASIC, FORTRAN, Pascal, CoBOL, C, Java, Objective-C, Haskell, and their visual equivalents plus a number of scripting languages: Lua, Actionscript, php, javascript, python, etc. I am firm believer that you need the right tool for the job. If you are going to make your living coding (or teaching coding) you need to make sure you have enough tools to get the job done.
Programming for mobile devices was an outgrowth of my research into Virtual Worlds; I could see that the next logical step for Virtual Worlds was to be available through mobile phones and tablets, so I made the leap to mobile app development soon after iOS became available.

Q: What brought you to Ansca’s Corona SDK for mobile development? Was the cross-platform support important to you?
A: Cross-platform support is what brought me to ANSCA’s Corona SDK. After teaching and developing for iOS devices, I knew there had to be a better way. It was obvious that Android was going to be a serious contender in the mobile marketplace and I didn’t really want to have to re-code every project to be able to support both operating systems. I knew there had to be a better way. So in late 2009/early 2010 I began researching cross-platform tools. There were more than a few available, but Corona was a stand-out and still is with its ability to create great apps AND games. I spent the summer of 2010 learning Corona and creating a few blog tutorials on how to use the SDK. That Fall I showed my mobile app development class Corona. They demanded more. We were completing projects that took six weeks in Objective-C in 2 class periods. The final piece was creating an early proto-type of the Space Explorer game (chapters 9 & 10 of my book) over the course of 5 class periods. Who creates a mobile game prototype from scratch in 5 hours? Corona developers do!

Q: There are now so many SDKs for mobile development now, including free and commercial versions. Why do you like to use Corona in preference to another SDK?
A: Last spring I again surveyed the cross-platform mobile app tools that were available. There are a lot more options available now than a couple of years ago. Now I might be somewhat biased, but ANSCA Mobile’s Corona SDK is still the leader of the pack. Sure there are SDK’s and tools that might have a particular feature that Corona doesn’t .. yet. But overall the competitors just don’t have the breadth and depth of Corona SDK. Plus ANSCA has one of the best developer communities that I have ever experienced. It speaks to the popularity of Corona that it was rated in the top 5 game engines that developers are planning to use by GD magazine.

Q: Why did you decide to write a book on Corona development?
A: The book was purely an outgrowth of interest and demand from my students. I needed a textbook that I could send my students to as a reference and would also help them to get through the sticky points of mobile app development. I had been in the process of deciding the topic of my next book for several months, so it seemed a natural fit. Kismet if you will.

Q: How long did it take to write the book?
A: Much longer than I anticipated! I was making great progress… almost a chapter and a ½ a week! The book was 2/3 finished when I got stung by a wasp, had an allergic reaction and almost died! The sting was on my left forearm and I wasn’t able to use the arm for over 6 weeks. By then, classes had resumed and so my writing was dramatically slowed. All told, it took 8 months from the time I started writing until the book was completed.

Q: What do you think are the most important elements to keep in mind for mobile development?
A: It is all about the user experience. Provide the people using your game/app a valuable experience and they will look for your other apps and games. Give them a poor experience and the odds of them giving you another chance is not very good.

Q: What qualifications, if any, do you have in programming?
A: Well, over 30 years of programming experience, a degree in Computer Information Systems, a minor in Computer Science and 20+ years of experience teaching programming to people from ages 12 through 72.

Q: What does your book cover?
A: The book was developed as a first semester course in mobile application development for students who had some programming experience (i.e. know how to do an if then statement, do while loop, and create a function). The first couple of chapters go at a moderate pace, introducing the development environment, how to handle orientation change, graphics, buttons, etc.
In later chapters I cover working with SQLite databases, file i/o, and network communications. I’ve tried to create a guided framework that people can quickly learn mobile app development.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: I have three exciting projects that I am currently working on:
First, I am in the midst of writing a new book that is for the absolute beginner in programming and app development. I was recently asked if Corona could be used to teach programming instead of learning other languages first. I feel that it is a great way to get started with learning to program. The great thing about this new book is that you have developed your own apps by the end of the book!
Second, I am developing online courses for those who would like more interaction to learn to make mobile apps. I am calling this effort B.I.T. for Burton Institute of Technology. It is my goal to continue to expand the course offerings over time, but I will start with mobile app and game development.
Finally, I am finishing a book that covers the entire game development pipeline. I didn’t like having to leave out HOW the graphics and sound were developed for my previous books due to space and time limitations. This new book is devoted to developing one game from concept to publication.
All of these projects should be finished during the summer of 2012 (assuming I don’t get stung by another wasp).

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Jason Oakley

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