Google DevFest 2014: Sri Lanka

If one were to walk into one of the side halls of BMICH last Saturday, they would have been treated to a large gathering of blue t-shirt clad youth hovering around the hall and a large backdrop with the words “Google Dev Fest 2014″ on it. Dev Fest is a global event, consisting of speaker sessions, hackathons and much more, it began on the 15th of September  and ran on to the 30th of November (which is when Sri Lanka hosted it).


The event began with Rohan Jayaweera’s somewhat emotional speech, in which announced that he would be leaving his position of Country Manager at Google (something we announced a while back). On a happier note, he also announced that Android One would be launched in Sri Lanka. He then went on to display a video by Amit Chopra, who heads the DevFest Imitative. The video was an introduction about the different Google initiatives. Meanwhile, we connected our Hutch gear and got online.

Next, Prabath Siriwardena, director of security architecture at WSO2, walked us through the evolution of internet identity and talked about the several protocols used online to verify one’s credentials when using a product or service.   combination of 4 entities, namely;  Identity, in his speech, was a combination of four entities:

  • An identifier – A unique key that cannot be duplicated such as a name
  • Credentials – Usage of a password or finger print to certify yourself. An identifier can have multiple credentials
  • Main Profile – A set of attributes
  • Context Based Profile – A set of attributes that can be displayed on a need-to-know basis

All credentials can be categorized as:

  • Something you know (eg: a password)
  • Something you have
  • Something you are

Pursuing the question of identity, he delved into the technical details – systems used by Google, Twitter and the like, the laws of identity, and so on.

After that we were treated to a pitch on, which admittedly was a bit of a fail, since asccessing the site returned a “Webpage not available” error. How can we rage if our site isn’t real?

Next, Chamira Prasad Jayasinghe, Founder, CEO and head of Innovation at Arimac Lanka, talked to the audience about human–computer interaction. He detailed Project Kundalini, which they use to gather EEG waves and to process Alpha, beta, theta, gamma, delta and Mu waves.  Apparently, Arimac has a whole list of things in the works; we’ll talk about them if we see something interesting headed our way.

Dhanika Perera, Founder and CEO of Bhasha Lanka,came next, talking about performance tips on Android development. He outlined several key factors to increase performance of Android applications:

  • Optimize your UI – Improve the speed of your UI by checking how long it takes to load via Hierarchy Viewer included in the Android SDK.
  • Do not rely on Linear Layouts – rather use Relative Layouts; the less nested, the faster your UI
  • Shrink your APK – shrinking the size of an APK makes it more mobile data friendly and easier to download. This can be done via applications such as ProGuard, DexGuard and DashO. Obfuscators can help safeguard your code against reverse engineering. Replace strings, remove unused classes, and encrypt strings.
  • Identify Memory Leakage Issues – tasks such as garbage collection, reallocation of memory when tasks are closed.
  • Profile your code – using traceview that comes with DDMS, identify issues at a method (micro) level.
  • Measure performance in the field – Do a live test of how the app performs to identify issues. Google Analytics and the Google Play developer console are your friends here.

After a coffee break, we had Vimukthi Liyanage introducing Mogo Reader, a news feed app aimed at delivering mobile news to all Sri Lankans. Vimukthi talked about his concept of Mogo Reader, and happily announced that the app was a finalist for GBG Success Stories. Although they were in the lead till the 28th of November, Nepal and Africa stole the lead.

Arunoda Susiripala of MeteorHacks talked about developing modern web apps for the end user. Of course, being Arunoda, there was quite a lot of Meteor evangelism, and some of the stuff he talked about would have been infinitely easier with Meteor.

Arunoda was followed by Dr. Beshan Kulapala of CodeGen, talking about the now-famous project Vega. We expect you’d know everything about already – if not, check out our video; they’re reportedly going to have  a fully working specimen by April 2015.

Then came Helani Wanniarachchi from 99X Technology, who talked about Web accessibility with HTML5, ARIA & Google technologies, giving both reasons and tools to improve the accessibility of your products on the web. Apps such as ChromeVox (a screen reader software developed by Google Accessibility team that literally reads elements in your browser), HighContrast (which allows for inversion of colors) WAVE (A Chrome extension which allows you to evaluate web content for accessibility issues directly within Chrome) are dome; to work effectively with these tools, you’d need to:

  • Use clean HTML
  • Manage Focus
  • Add keyhandlers – enable onkeypress event for each onclick event.
  • Stick to ARIA specifications – identifying objects for what they are, caoturing dynamic state changes and keeping an eye on areas that are constantly changing.

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect” – Tim Burners Lee

Next up was an interesting session for those into Android development and hardware enthusiasts: an introduction to android internals by Anjana Somathilake, of Leapset Engineering. He gave an introduction to Android and its lifecycle, how the hardware works, and encouraged young developers to visit the Android source code repository to tinker around with the coding to see how Android operates. He also mentioned that Android randomly kills apps – either due to low memory or inactivity and asked the developers in the audience to account for this when building apps.

The final session for the day was by Ramindu Sanka Deshapriya of the Sahana Software Foundation. Triggered by the 2004 tsunami and earthquake devastation, the company was created by members of the Sri Lankan IT industry the sole purpose of building a system to help face the aftermath. Ramindu talked at length about how Sahana works and the work that they do -they have been involved in Disaster Response Deployments up to most recent Bosnia floods in 2014, and now provide services and information for people across the globe while keeping their FOSS core pure.  With that session, the DevFest 2014 for Sri Lanka came to a close, and we exited BMICH with GDG hats.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here