Save Chat Messages using Realm in SUSI iOS

Fetching data from the server each time causes a network load which makes the app depend on the server and the network in order to display data. We use an offline database to store chat messages so that we can show messages to the user even if network is not present which makes the user experience better. Realm is used as a data storage solution due to its ease of usability and also, since it’s faster and more efficient to use. So in order to save messages received from the server locally in a database in SUSI iOS, we are using Realm and the reasons for using the same are mentioned below.

The major upsides of Realm are:

  • It’s absolutely free of charge,
  • Fast, and easy to use.
  • Unlimited use.
  • Work on its own persistence engine for speed and performance

Below are the steps to install and use Realm in the iOS Client:

Installation:

  • Install Cocoapods
  • Run `pod repo update` in the root folder
  • In your Podfile, add use_frameworks! and pod ‘RealmSwift’ to your main and test targets.
  • From the command line run `pod install`
  • Use the `.xcworkspace` file generated by Cocoapods in the project folder alongside `.xcodeproj` file

After installation we start by importing `Realm` in the `AppDelegate` file and start configuring Realm as below:

func initializeRealm() {
        var config = Realm.Configuration(schemaVersion: 1,
            migrationBlock: { _, oldSchemaVersion in
                if (oldSchemaVersion < 0) {
                    // Nothing to do!
                }
        })
        config.fileURL = config.fileURL?.deletingLastPathComponent().appendingPathComponent("susi.realm")
        Realm.Configuration.defaultConfiguration = config
}

Next, let’s head over to creating a few models which will be used to save the data to the DB as well as help retrieving that data so that it can be easily used. Since Susi server has a number of action types, we will cover some of the action types, their model and how they are used to store and retrieve data. Below are the currently available data types, that the server supports.

enum ActionType: String {
  case answer
  case websearch
  case rss
  case table
  case map 
  case anchor
}

Let’s start with the creation of the base model called `Message`. To make it a RealmObject, we import `RealmSwift` and inherit from `Object`

class Message: Object {
  dynamic var queryDate = NSDate()
  dynamic var answerDate = NSDate()
  dynamic var message: String = ""
  dynamic var fromUser = true
  dynamic var actionType = ActionType.answer.rawValue
  dynamic var answerData: AnswerAction?
  dynamic var mapData: MapAction?
  dynamic var anchorData: AnchorAction?
}

Let’s study these properties of the message one by one.

  • `queryDate`: saves the date-time the query was made
  • `answerDate`: saves the date-time the query response was received
  • `message`: stores the query/message that was sent to the server
  • `fromUser`: a boolean which keeps track who created the message
  • `actionType`: stores the action type
  • `answerData`, `rssData`, `mapData`, `anchorData` are the data objects that actually store the respective action’s data

To initialize this object, we need to create a method that takes input the data received from the server.

// saves query and answer date
if let queryDate = data[Client.ChatKeys.QueryDate] as? String,
let answerDate = data[Client.ChatKeys.AnswerDate] as? String {
  message.queryDate = dateFormatter.date(from: queryDate)! as NSDate
  message.answerDate = dateFormatter.date(from: answerDate)! as NSDate}if let type = action[Client.ChatKeys.ResponseType] as? String,
  let data = answers[0][Client.ChatKeys.Data] as? [[String : AnyObject]] {
  if type == ActionType.answer.rawValue {
     message.message = action[Client.ChatKeys.Expression] as! String
     message.actionType = ActionType.answer.rawValue
    message.answerData = AnswerAction(action: action)
  } else if type == ActionType.map.rawValue {
    message.actionType = ActionType.map.rawValue
    message.mapData = MapAction(action: action)
  } else if type == ActionType.anchor.rawValue {
    message.actionType = ActionType.anchor.rawValue
    message.anchorData = AnchorAction(action: action)
    message.message = message.anchorData!.text
  }
}

Since, the response from the server for a particular query might contain numerous action types, we create loop inside a method to capture all those action types and save each one of them. Since, there are multiple action types thus we need a list containing all the messages created for the action types. For each action in the loop, corresponding data is saved into their specific objects.

Let’s discuss the individual action objects now.

  • AnswerAction
class AnswerAction: Object {
  dynamic var expression: String = ""
  convenience init(action: [String : AnyObject]) {
    self.init()
    if let expression = action[Client.ChatKeys.Expression] as? String {
      self.expression = expression
    }
  }
}

 This is the simplest action type implementation. It contains a single property `expression` which is a string type. For initializing it, we take the action object and extract the expression key-value and save it.

if type == ActionType.answer.rawValue {
  message.message = action[Client.ChatKeys.Expression] as! String
  message.actionType = ActionType.answer.rawValue
  // pass action object and save data in `answerData`
  message.answerData = AnswerAction(action: action)
}

Above is the way an answer action is checked and data saved inside the `answerData` variable.

2)   MapAction

class MapAction: Object {
  dynamic var latitude: Double = 0.0
  dynamic var longitude: Double = 0.0
  dynamic var zoom: Int = 13

  convenience init(action: [String : AnyObject]) {
    self.init()
    if let latitude = action[Client.ChatKeys.Latitude] as? String,
    let longitude = action[Client.ChatKeys.Longitude] as? String,
    let zoom = action[Client.ChatKeys.Zoom] as? String {
      self.longitude = Double(longitude)!
      self.latitude = Double(latitude)!
      self.zoom = Int(zoom)!
    }
  }
}

This action implementation contains three properties, `latitude` `longitude` `zoom`. Since the server responds the values inside a string, each of them need to be converted to their respective type using force-casting. Default values are provided for each property in case some illegal value comes from the server.

3)   AnchorAction

class AnchorAction: Object {
  dynamic var link: String = ""
  dynamic var text: String = ""

  convenience init(action: [String : AnyObject]) {
    self.init()if let link = action[Client.ChatKeys.Link] as? String,
    let text = action[Client.ChatKeys.Text] as? String {
      self.link = link
      self.text = text
    }
  }
}

Here, the link to the openstreetmap website is saved in order to retrieve the image for displaying.

Finally, we need to call the API and create the message object and use the `write` clock of a realm instance to save it into the DB.

if success {
  self.collectionView?.performBatchUpdates({
    for message in messages! {
    // real write block
      try! self.realm.write {
        self.realm.add(message)
        self.messages.append(message)
        let indexPath = IndexPath(item: self.messages.count - 1, section: 0)
        self.collectionView?.insertItems(at: [indexPath])
      }
   }
}, completion: { (_) in
    self.scrollToLast()
  })
}

list of message items and inserted into the collection view.Below is the output of the Realm Browser which is a UI for viewing the database.

References:

Persistence Layer in Open Event Organizer Android App

Open Event Organizer is an Event Managing Android App with the core features of Attendee Check In by QR Code Scan and Data Sync with the Open Event API Server. As an event can be large, so the app will be dealing with a large amount of a data. Hence to avoid repetitive network requests for fetching the data, the app maintains a local database containing all the required data and the database is synced with the server. Android provides android.database.sqlite package which contains the API needed to use the database on the Android. But it is really not a good practice to use the sqlite queries everywhere in the app. So there comes a persistence layer. A persistence layer works between the database and the business logic. Open Event Organizer uses Raizlabs’s DbFlow, an ORM based Android Database Library for the same. I will be talking about its implementation through the app in this blog.

First of all, you declare the base class of the database which is used to create the database by Android for the app. You declare all the base constants here. The class looks like:

@Database(
   name = OrgaDatabase.NAME,
   version = OrgaDatabase.VERSION,
   ...
)
public class OrgaDatabase {
   public static final String NAME = "orga_database";
   public static final int VERSION = 2;
   ...
}

OrgaDatabase.java
app/src/main/java/org/fossasia/openevent/app/data/db/configuration/OrgaDatabase.java

Initialise the database in the Application class using FlowManager provided by the library. Choose the Application class to do this to ensure that the library finds the generated code in the DbFlow.

FlowManager.init(
   new FlowConfig.Builder(context)
       .addDatabaseConfig(
           new DatabaseConfig.Builder(OrgaDatabase.class)
           ...
           .build()
       )
       .build());

OrgaApplication.java
app/src/main/java/org/fossasia/openevent/app/OrgaApplication.java

The database is created now. For tables creation, DbFlow uses model classes which must be annotated using the annotations provided by the library. The basic annotations are – @Table, @PrimaryKey, @Column, @ForeignKey etc.

For example, the Attendee class in the app looks like:

@Table(database = OrgaDatabase.class)
public class Attendee ... {

   @PrimaryKey
   public long id;

   @Column
   public boolean checkedIn;
   ...
   ...
   @ForeignKey(
       onDelete = ForeignKeyAction.CASCADE,
       onUpdate = ForeignKeyAction.CASCADE)
   public Order order;
   ...
}

Attendee.java
app/src/main/java/org/fossasia/openevent/app/data/models/Attendee.java

This will create a table named attendee with the columns and relationships annotated. Now comes the part of accessing data from the database. Open Event App uses RxJava’s support to the DbFlow library which enables async data accessing. The getItems method from DataBaseRepository looks like:

public <T> Observable<T> getItems(Class<T> typeClass, SQLOperator... conditions) {
   return RXSQLite.rx(SQLite.select()
       .from(typeClass)
       .where(conditions))
       .queryList()
       .flattenAsObservable(items -> items);
}

 

The method returns an observable emitting the items from the result. For data saving, the method looks like:

DatabaseDefinition database = FlowManager.getDatabase(OrgaDatabase.class);
FastStoreModelTransaction<T> transaction = FastStoreModelTransaction
   .insertBuilder(FlowManager.getModelAdapter(itemClass))
   .addAll(items)
   .build();
database.executeTransaction(transaction);

 

And for updating data, the method looks like:

ModelAdapter<T> modelAdapter = FlowManager.getModelAdapter(classType);
modelAdapter.update(item);

DatabaseRepository.java
app/src/main/java/org/fossasia/openevent/app/data/db/DatabaseRepository.java

DbFlow provides DirectModelNotifier which is used to get notified of the database change anywhere in the app. Open Event App uses PublishSubjects to send notifications on database change event. The implementation of the DatabaseChangeListener in the app looks like:

public class DatabaseChangeListener<T> ... {
   private PublishSubject<ModelChange<T>> publishSubject = PublishSubject.create();
   private DirectModelNotifier.ModelChangedListener<T> modelModelChangedListener;
   ...
   public void startListening() {
       modelModelChangedListener = new DirectModelNotifier.ModelChangedListener<T>() {
           @Override
           public void onTableChanged(@Nullable Class<?> aClass, @NonNull BaseModel.Action action) {
               // No action to be taken
           }
           @Override
           public void onModelChanged(@NonNull T model, @NonNull BaseModel.Action action) {
               publishSubject.onNext(new ModelChange<>(model, action));
           }
       };
       DirectModelNotifier.get().registerForModelChanges(classType, modelModelChangedListener);
   }
   ...
}

DatabaseChangeListener.java
app/src/main/java/org/fossasia/openevent/app/data/db/DatabaseChangeListener.java

The class is used in the app to get notified of the data change and to update the required local data fields using data from item emitted by the publishSubject of the class. This is used in the app where same data is accessed at more than one places. For example, There are two fragments – AttendeesFragment and AttendeeCheckInFragment from which an attendee’s check in status is toggled. So when the status is toggled from AttendeeCheckInFragment, the change must be updated in the AttendeesFragment’s attendees list. This is carried out using DatabaseChangeListener in the AttendeesPresenter which provides attendees list to the AttendeesFragment. And on the change in the attendee’s check in status, AttendeePresenter’s attendeeListener listens for the change and update the attendee in the list accordingly.

Links:
1. Raizlabs’s DbFlow , an ORM Android Database Library Github Repo Link
2. DbFlow documentation
3. Android database managing API android.database.sqlite

Selecting Best persistent storage for Phimpme Android and how to use it

As we are progressing in our Phimpme Android app. I added account manager part which deals with connecting all other accounts to phimpme. Showing a list of connected accounts.

We need a persistent storage to store all the details such as username, full name, profile image url, access token (to access API). I researched on various Object Relation mapping (ORMs) such as:

  1. DBFlow: https://github.com/Raizlabs/DBFlow
  2. GreenDAO: https://github.com/greenrobot/greenDAO
  3. SugarORM: http://satyan.github.io/sugar/
  4. Requery: https://github.com/requery/requery

and other NoSQL databases such as Realm Database : https://github.com/realm/realm-java.

After reading a lot from some blogs on the benchmarking of these ORMs and database, I came to know that Realm database is quite better in terms of Speed of writing data and ease of use.

Steps to integrate Realm Database:

  • Installation of Realm database in android

Following these steps https://realm.io/docs/java/latest/#installation quickly setup realm in android. Add

classpath "io.realm:realm-gradle-plugin:3.3.2"

in Project level build.gradle file and Add

apply plugin: 'realm-android' 

in app level build.gradle, That’s it for using Realm

  • Generating required Realm models

Firstly, make sure what you need to store in your database. In case of phimpme, I first go through the account section and noted down what needs to be there.  Profile image URL, username, full name, account indicator image name. Below image illustrate this better.

This is the Realm Model class I made in Kotlin to store name, username and access token for accessing API.

open class AccountDatabase(
 [email protected] var name: String = "",
       var username: String = "",
       var token: String = ""
) : RealmObject()

  • Writing data in database

In Account manager, I create a add account option from where a dialog appear with a list of accounts. Currently, Twitter is working, when onSuccess function invoke in AccountPickerFragment I start a twitter session and store values in database. Writing data in database:

// Begin realm transaction
realm.beginTransaction();

// Creating Realm object for AccountDatabase Class
account = realm.createObject(AccountDatabase.class,
       accountsList[0]);

account.setUsername(session.getUserName());
account.setToken(String.valueOf(session.getAuthToken()));
realm.commitTransaction();

Begin and commit block in necessary. There is one more way of doing this is using execute function in Realm

  • Use Separate Database Helper class for Database operations

It’s good to use a separate class for all the Database operations needed in the project. I created a DatabaseHelper Class and added a function to query the result needed. Query the database

public RealmResults<AccountDatabase> fetchAccountDetails(){
   return realm.where(AccountDatabase.class).findAll();
}

It give all of the results, stored in the database like below

  • Problems I faced with annotation processor while using Kotlin and Realm together

The Kotlin annotation processor not running due to the plugins wrong order. This issue https://github.com/realm/realm-java/pull/2568 helped me in solving that. I addded apply plugin: ‘kotlin-kapt’. In app gradle file and shift apply plugin: ‘realm-android’ In below the order.

Resources:

 

Ticket Ordering or Positioning (back-end)

One of the many feature requests that we got for our open event organizer server or the eventyay website is ticket ordering. The event organizers wanted to show the tickets in a particular order in the website and wanted to control the ordering of the ticket. This was a common request by many and also an important enhancement. There were two main things to deal with when ticket ordering was concerned. Firstly, how do we store the position of the ticket in the set of tickets. Secondly, we needed to give an UI in the event creation/edit wizard to control the order or position of a ticket. In this blog, I will talk about how we store the position of the tickets in the backend and use it to show in our public page of the event.

Continue reading Ticket Ordering or Positioning (back-end)

Doing a table join in Android without using rawQuery

The Open Event Android App, downloads data from the API (about events, sessions speakers etc), and saves them locally in an SQLite database, so that the app can work even without internet connection.

Since there are multiple entities like Sessions, Speakers, Events etc, and each Session has ids of speakers, and id of it’s venue etc, we often need to use JOIN queries to join data from two tables.

 

Android has some really nice SQLite helper classes and methods. And the ones I like the most are the SQLiteDatabase.query, SQLiteDatabase.update, SQLiteDatabase.insert ones, because they take away quite a bit of pain for typing out SQL commands by hand.

But unfortunately, if you have to use a JOIN, then usually you have to go and use the SQLiteDatabase.rawQuery method and end up having to type your commands by hand.

But but but, if the two tables you are joining do not have any common column names (actually it is good design to have them so – by having all column names prefixed by tablename_ maybe), then you can hack the usual SQLiteDatabase.query() method to get a JOINed query.

Now ideally, to get the Session where speaker_id was 1, a nice looking SQL query should be like this –

SELECT * FROM speaker INNER JOIN session
ON speaker_id = session_speaker_id
WHERE speaker_id = 1

Which, in android, can be done like this –

String rawQuery = "SELECT * FROM " + SpeakerTable.TABLE_NAME + " INNER JOIN " + SessionTable.TABLE_NAME
        + " ON " + SessionTable.EXP_ID + " = " + SpeakerTable.ID
        + " WHERE " + SessionTable.ID + " = " +  id;
Cursor c = db.rawQuery(
        rawQuery,
        null
);

But of course, because of SQLite’s backward compatible support of the primitive way of querying, we turn that command into

SELECT *
FROM session, speaker
WHERE speaker_id = session_speaker_id AND speaker_id = 1

Now this we can write by hacking the terminology used by the #query() method –

Cursor c = db.query(
        SessionTable.TABLE_NAME + " , " + SpeakerTable.TABLE_NAME,
        Utils.concat(SessionTable.PROJECTION, SpeakerTable.PROJECTION),
        SessionTable.EXP_ID + " = " + SpeakerTable.ID + " AND " + SpeakerTable.ID + " = " +  id,
        null,
        null,
        null,
        null
);

To explain a bit, the first argument String tableName can take table1, table2 as well safely, The second argument takes a String array of column names, I concatenated the two projections of the two classes. and finally, put by WHERE clause into the String selection argument.

You can see the code for all database operations in the android app here  https://github.com/fossasia/open-event-android/blob/master/android/app/src/main/java/org/fossasia/openevent/dbutils/DatabaseOperations.java

Implementing Admin Trash in Open Event

So last week I had the task of implementing a trash system for the Admin. It was observed that sometimes a user may delete an item and then realize that the item needs to be restores. Thus a trash system works well in this case. Presently the items that are being moved to the trash are:

  • Deleted Users
  • Deleted Events
  • Deleted Sessions

So it works like this. I added a column in_trash to the tables User, Event and Sessions to mark whether the item is in the trash or not

in_trash = db.Column(db.Boolean, default=False)

So depending on whether the value is True or False the item will be in the trash of the admin. Thus for a normal user on deleting an event, user or session a message would flash that the item is deleted and the item would not be shown in the table list of the user. However it would not be deleted from the database.

trash4.png

trash5.png

Thus for the user the item is deleted. The item’s in_trash property is set to True and it gets moved to the trash. The items are displayed in the “Deleted Items” section of the Admin panel

trash1trash2trash3

The items deleted are displayed in the trash and as soon as they deleted in the trash they are deleted from the database permanently. A message will flash for the Admin when it is deleted

trash11

trash10.png

Thus the trash is implemented. 🙂

Two more things are left:

  • To restore items from trash
  • To automatically delete the items in trash after an inactivity of 30 days

This will soon be implemented 🙂

Open-Event Permissions System and integrating it with decorators

All the large scale applications require a permissions system. Thus we also implemented a permissions system in our open-event organization server. It consists of certain pre-decided roles:

  1. Super-Admin
  2. Admin
  3. Organizer
  4. Co organizer
  5. Track organizer
  6. Anonymous user

Now we had to decide the permissions which each role would have. Hence we created a documentation regarding what URLs can be accessed by each role. We developed a list of services which the roles could use their permissions to access:

  1. Tracks
  2. Microlocations
  3. Speakers
  4. Sessions
  5. Sponsors

Thus the final step was to implement the permissions system to the appropriate views or URLs. Here comes the power of Flask decorators . I created a individual decorators @is_organizer, @is_admin, @is_super_admin etc… to check the respective roles. I created one main decorator @can_access to see whether the role can access the particular URL or view function

decorator

So in the above decorator I have simply take in the url and check whether it has ‘create’, ‘edit’ or ‘delete’ words in it. Depending on that the control goes in the particular IF statement. Now once it is decided what operation is being performed it checks what service is being accessed by the user. For example: if the operation is edit then it will check whether the service being edited is an event, session, sponsor etc…

Similar checks are performed by each operation. A check is performed of the request.url to see whether the string for that service is present in it. After it knows what service is being accessed its just a matter of using the CRUD functions of user table to check if the role accessing the resource has the requested permission using the functions:

  1. user.can_create()
  2. user.can_read()
  3. user.can_update()
  4. user.can_delete()

After this its just a matter of adding the decorator to each of the view functions and the system is implemented.  🙂