Implementing Skill Detail Section in SUSI Android App

SUSI Skills are rules that are defined in SUSI Skill Data repo which are basically the responses SUSI gives to the user queries. When a user queries something from the SUSI Android app, a query to SUSI Server is made which further fetches response from SUSI Skill Data and gives the response to the app. Similarly, when we need to list all skills, an API call is made to server to list all skills. The server then checks the SUSI Skill Data repo for the skills and then return all the required information to the app. Then the app displays all the information about the skill to user. User then can view details of each skill and then interact on the chat interface to use that skill. This process is similar to what SUSI Skill CMS does. The CMS is a skill wiki like interface to view all skills and then edit them. Though the app can not be currently used to edit the skills but it can be used to view them and try them on the chat interface.

API Information

For listing SUSI Skill groups, we have to call on /cms/getGroups.json

This will give you all groups in SUSI model in which skills are present. Current response:

{
  "session": {"identity": {
    "type": "host",
    "name": "14.139.194.24",
    "anonymous": true
  }},
  "accepted": true,
  "groups": [
    "Small Talk",
    "Entertainment",
    "Problem Solving",
    "Knowledge",
    "Assistants",
    "Shopping"
  ],
  "message": "Success: Fetched group list"
}

So, the groups object gives all the groups in which SUSI Skills are located.

Next comes, fetching of skills. For that the endpoint is /cms/getGroups.json?group=GROUP_NAME

Since we want all skills to be fetched, we call this api for every group. So, for example we will be calling http://api.susi.ai/cms/getSkillList.json?group=Entertainment for getting all skills in group “Entertainment”. Similarly for other groups as well.

Sample response of skill:

{
  "accepted": true,
  "model": "general",
  "group": "Shopping",
  "language": "en",
  "skills": {"amazon_shopping": {
    "image": "images/amazon_shopping.png",
    "author_url": "https://github.com/meriki",
    "examples": ["Buy a dress"],
    "developer_privacy_policy": null,
    "author": "Y S Ramya",
    "skill_name": "Shop At Amazon",
    "dynamic_content": true,
    "terms_of_use": null,
    "descriptions": "Searches items on Amazon.com for shopping",
    "skill_rating": null
  }},
  "message": "Success: Fetched skill list",
  "session": {"identity": {
    "type": "host",
    "name": "14.139.194.24",
    "anonymous": true
  }}
}

It gives all details about skills:

  1. image
  2. author_url
  3. examples
  4. developer_privacy_policy
  5. author
  6. skill_name
  7. dynamic_content
  8. terms_of_use
  9. descriptions
  10. skill_rating

Implementation in SUSI Android App

Skill Detail Section UI of Google Assistant

Skill Detail Section UI of SUSI SKill CMS

Skill Detail Section UI of SUSI Android App

The UI of skill detail section in SUSI Android App is the mixture of UI of Skill detail section in Google Assistant ap and SUSI Skill CMS. It displays details of skills in a beautiful manner with horizontal recyclerview used to display the examples.

So, we have to display following details about the skill in Skill Detail Section:

  1. Skill Name
  2. Author Name
  3. Skill Image
  4. Try it Button
  5. Description
  6. Examples
  7. Rating
  8. Content type (Dynamic/Static)
  9. Terms of Use
  10. Developer’s Privacy policy

Let’s see the implementation.

1. Whenever a skill Card View is clicked, showSkillDetailFragment() is called and it opens a new instance of a fragment named SkillDetailsFragment which shows details of the skill. We have to provide necessary information while starting the fragment. This information is passed as a Serializable.

fun showSkillDetailFragment(skillData: SkillData, skillGroup: String) {
   val skillDetailsFragment = SkillDetailsFragment.newInstance(skillData,skillGroup)
   (context as SkillsActivity).fragmentManager.beginTransaction()
           .replace(R.id.fragment_container, skillDetailsFragment)
           .commit()
}

2.  The data which was passed as a Serializeable object is now casted back to the required form and a method to set up the UI is called.

companion object {
   val SKILL_KEY = "skill_key"
   val SKILL_GROUP = "skill_group"
   fun newInstance(skillData: SkillData, skillGroup: String): SkillDetailsFragment {
       val fragment = SkillDetailsFragment()
       val bundle = Bundle()
       bundle.putSerializable(SKILL_KEY, skillData as Serializable)
       bundle.putString(SKILL_GROUP, skillGroup)
       fragment.arguments = bundle

       return fragment
   }
}

override fun onCreateView(inflater: LayoutInflater, container: ViewGroup?, savedInstanceState: Bundle?): View {
   skillData = arguments.getSerializable(
           SKILL_KEY) as SkillData
   skillGroup = arguments.getString(SKILL_GROUP)
   return inflater.inflate(R.layout.fragment_skill_details, container, false)
}

override fun onViewCreated(view: View?, savedInstanceState: Bundle?) {
   setupUI()
   super.onViewCreated(view, savedInstanceState)
}

3. The setupUI() method then calls separate method for setting every part of the UI like image, name etc.

fun setupUI() {
   setImage()
   setName()
   setAuthor()
   setTryButton()
   setDescription()
   setExamples()
   setRating()
   setDynamicContent()
   setPolicy()
   setTerms()
}

4. One example of setting a part of the UI is setting Author name. It checks if AuthorName is null or not. After that it anchors author’s github account link with his/her name.

fun setAuthor() {
   skill_detail_author.text = "Author : ${activity.getString(R.string.no_skill_author)}"
   if(skillData.author != null && !skillData.author.isEmpty()){
       if(skillData.authorUrl == null || skillData.authorUrl.isEmpty())
           skill_detail_author.text = "Author : ${skillData.skillName}"
       else {
           skill_detail_author.linksClickable = true
           skill_detail_author.movementMethod = LinkMovementMethod.getInstance()
           if (android.os.Build.VERSION.SDK_INT >= Build.VERSION_CODES.N) {
               skill_detail_author.text = Html.fromHtml("Author : <a href=\"${skillData.authorUrl}\">${skillData.author}</a>", Html.FROM_HTML_MODE_COMPACT)
           } else {
               skill_detail_author.text = Html.fromHtml("Author : <a href=\"${skillData.authorUrl}\">${skillData.author}</a>")
           }
       }
   }
}

Summary

So, this blog talked about how the Skill detail section in SUSI Android App is implemented. This included how a network call is made, logic for making different network calls, making a horizontal recyclerview for displaying examples. So, If you are looking forward to contribute to SUSI Android App, this can help you a little. But if not so, this may also help you in understanding and how you can implement horizontal recyclerview similar to Google Play Store.

References

  1. To know about servlets https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Java_servlet
  2. To see how to implement one https://www.javatpoint.com/servlet-tutorial
  3. To see how to make network calls in android using Retrofit https://guides.codepath.com/android/Consuming-APIs-with-Retrofit
  4. To see how to implement custom RecyclerView Adapter https://www.survivingwithandroid.com/2016/09/android-recyclerview-tutorial.html

Implementing Change Password Feature in SUSI Android App using Custom Dialogs

Recently a new servlet was implemented on the SUSI Server about changing the password of the logged in user. This feature comes in handy to avoid unauthorized usage of the SUSI Account. Almost all the online platforms have this feature to change the password to avoid notorious user to unethical use someone else’s account. In SUSI Android app this new API was used with a nice UI to change the password of the user. The process is very simple and easy to grasp. This blog will try to cover the API information and implementation of the Change Password feature in the android client.

API Information

For changing the password of SUSI Account of the user, we have to call on  /aaa/changepassword.json

We have to provide three parameters along with this api call:

  1. changepassword:  Email of user (type string) using which user is logged in.
  2. password:  Old password (type string with min length of 6) of the user.
  3. newpassword: New password (type string with min length of 6) of the user.
  4. access_token: An encrypted access_token indicating user is logged in.

Sample Response (Success)

{
  "session": {"identity": {
    "type": "email",
    "name": "YOUR_EMAIL_ADDRESS",
    "anonymous": false
  }},
  "accepted": true,
  "message": "Your password has been changed!"
}

Error Response (Failure). This happens when user is not logged in:

HTTP ERROR 401
Problem accessing /aaa/changepassword.json. Reason:
   Base user role not sufficient. Your base user role is 'ANONYMOUS', your user role is 'anonymous'

Implementation in SUSI Android App

The change password option is located in Settings Activity and displayed only when user is logged in. So, if a logged in user wants to change the password of his/her SUSI AI account, he/she can simply go to the Settings and click on the option. Clicking on the options open up a dialog box with 3 input layouts for:

  1. Current Password
  2. New Password
  3. Confirm New Password

So, user can simply add these three inputs and click “Ok”. This will change the password of their account. Let’s see some code explanation.

  1. When user clicks on the “reset password” option from the settings, the showResetPasswordAlert() method is called which displays the dialog. And when user clicks on the “OK” button the resetPassword method() in the presenter is called passing input from the three input layout as parameters.

settingsPresenter.resetPassword(password.editText?.text.toString(), newPassword.editText?.text.toString(), conPassword.editText?.text.toString())

fun showResetPasswordAlert() {
   val builder = AlertDialog.Builder(activity)
   val resetPasswordView = activity.layoutInflater.inflate(R.layout.alert_reset_password, null)
   password = resetPasswordView.findViewById(R.id.password) as TextInputLayout
   newPassword = resetPasswordView.findViewById(R.id.newpassword) as TextInputLayout
   conPassword = resetPasswordView.findViewById(R.id.confirmpassword) as TextInputLayout
   builder.setView(resetPasswordView)
   builder.setTitle(Constant.CHANGE_PASSWORD)
           .setCancelable(false)
           .setNegativeButton(Constant.CANCEL, null)
           .setPositiveButton(getString(R.string.ok), null)
   resetPasswordAlert = builder.create()
   resetPasswordAlert.show()
   setupPasswordWatcher()
   resetPasswordAlert.getButton(AlertDialog.BUTTON_POSITIVE)?.setOnClickListener {
       settingsPresenter.resetPassword(password.editText?.text.toString(), newPassword.editText?.text.toString(), conPassword.editText?.text.toString())
   }
}
  1. In the resetPassword method, all details about the passwords are checked like:
  1. If passwords are not empty.
  2. If passwords’ lengths are greater than 6.
  3. If new password and confirmation new password matches

   

When all the conditions are satisfied and all the inputs are valid, resetPassword() in model is called which makes network call to change password of the user.

settingModel.resetPassword(password,newPassword,this)

override fun resetPassword(password: String, newPassword: String, conPassword: String) {
   if (password.isEmpty()) {
       settingView?.invalidCredentials(true, Constant.PASSWORD)
       return
   }
   if (newPassword.isEmpty()) {
       settingView?.invalidCredentials(true, Constant.NEW_PASSWORD)
       return
   }
   if (conPassword.isEmpty()) {
       settingView?.invalidCredentials(true, Constant.CONFIRM_PASSWORD)
       return
   }

   if (!CredentialHelper.isPasswordValid(newPassword)) {
       settingView?.passwordInvalid(Constant.NEW_PASSWORD)
       return
   }

   if (newPassword != conPassword) {
       settingView?.invalidCredentials(false, Constant.NEW_PASSWORD)
       return
   }
   settingModel.resetPassword(password,newPassword,this)
}

Summary

So, this blog talked about how the Change Password feature is implemented in SUSI Android App. This included how a network call is made, logic for making network, information about API, making dialogs with custom UI, etc. So, If you are looking forward to contribute to SUSI Android App, this can help you a little. But if not so, this may also help you in understanding and how you can implement a dialog box with custom UI.

References

  1. To know about servlets https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Java_servlet
  2. To see how to implement one https://www.javatpoint.com/servlet-tutorial
  3. To see how to make network calls in android using Retrofit https://guides.codepath.com/android/Consuming-APIs-with-Retrofit
  4. Official docs for displaying dialog https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/ui/dialogs.html
  5. Implementing dialog boxes with custom UI https://stackoverflow.com/questions/13341560/how-to-create-a-custom-dialog-box-in-android
  6. Pull Request for API reference: https://github.com/fossasia/susi_server/pull/352

Implementing Skill Listing in SUSI Android App using Nested RecyclerViews

SUSI Skills are rules that are defined in SUSI Skill Data repo which are basically the responses SUSI gives to the user queries. When a user queries something from the SUSI Android app, a query to SUSI Server is made which further fetches response from SUSI Skill Data and gives the response to the app. Similarly, when we need to list all skills, an API call is made to server to list all skills. The server then checks the SUSI Skill Data repo for the skills and then return all the required information to the app. Then the app displays all the information about the skill to user. User then can view details of each skill and then interact on the chat interface to use that skill. This process is similar to what SUSI Skill CMS does. The CMS is a skill wiki like interface to view all skills and then edit them. Though the app can not be currently used to edit the skills but it can be used to view them and try them on the chat interface.

API Information

For listing SUSI Skill groups, we have to call on  /cms/getGroups.json

This will give you all groups in SUSI model in which skills are present. Current response:

{
  "session": {"identity": {
    "type": "host",
    "name": "14.139.194.24",
    "anonymous": true
  }},
  "accepted": true,
  "groups": [
    "Small Talk",
    "Entertainment",
    "Problem Solving",
    "Knowledge",
    "Assistants",
    "Shopping"
  ],
  "message": "Success: Fetched group list"
}

So, the groups object gives all the groups in which SUSI Skills are located.

Next comes, fetching of skills. For that the endpoint is /cms/getGroups.json?group=GROUP_NAME

Since we want all skills to be fetched, we call this api for every group. So, for example we will be calling http://api.susi.ai/cms/getSkillList.json?group=Entertainment for getting all skills in group “Entertainment”. Similarly for other groups as well.

Sample response of skill:

{
  "accepted": true,
  "model": "general",
  "group": "Shopping",
  "language": "en",
  "skills": {"amazon_shopping": {
    "image": "images/amazon_shopping.png",
    "author_url": "https://github.com/meriki",
    "examples": ["Buy a dress"],
    "developer_privacy_policy": null,
    "author": "Y S Ramya",
    "skill_name": "Shop At Amazon",
    "dynamic_content": true,
    "terms_of_use": null,
    "descriptions": "Searches items on Amazon.com for shopping",
    "skill_rating": null
  }},
  "message": "Success: Fetched skill list",
  "session": {"identity": {
    "type": "host",
    "name": "14.139.194.24",
    "anonymous": true
  }}
}

It gives all details about skills:

  1. image
  2. author_url
  3. examples
  4. developer_privacy_policy
  5. author
  6. skill_name
  7. dynamic_content
  8. terms_of_use
  9. descriptions
  10. skill_rating

Implementation in SUSI Android App

Skill Listing UI of Google Assistant

Skill Listing UI of SUSI SKill CMS

Skill Listing UI of SUSI Android App

The UI of skill listing in SUSI Android App is the mixture of UI of Skill listing in Google Assistant ap and SUSI Skill CMS. It displays skills in a beautiful manner with horizontal recyclerview nested in vertical recyclerview.

So, for implementing horizontal recyclerview inside vertical recyclerview, you need two viewholders and two adapters (one each for a recyclerview).

Let’s see the implementation.

1. First task is to fetch the information of groups in which skills are located. This line calls method in SkillListModel which then makes an API call to fetch groups.

skillListingModel.fetchGroups(this)

2. When the API call is succeeded, the below mentioned method is called which then calls a  skillListingModel.fetchSkills(groups[0], this) which fetches the skills located in group[0] group.

override fun onGroupFetchSuccess(response: Response<ListGroupsResponse>) {
   if (response.isSuccessful && response.body() != null) {
       groupsCount = response.body().groups.size
       groups = response.body().groups
       skillListingModel.fetchSkills(groups[0], this)
   } else {
       skillListingView?.visibilityProgressBar(false)
       skillListingView?.displayErrorDialog()
   }
}

3. When API call for fetching skills in group[0] succeeds, the count value is increased and then skills in group[1] are fetched and so on.

override fun onSkillFetchSuccess(response: Response<ListSkillsResponse>, group: String) {
   if (response.isSuccessful && response.body() != null) {
       skills.add(Pair(group, response.body().skillMap))
       count++
       if(count == groupsCount) {
           skillListingView?.visibilityProgressBar(false)
           skillListingView?.updateAdapter(skills)
       } else {
           skillListingModel.fetchSkills(groups[count], this)
       }
   } else {
       skillListingView?.visibilityProgressBar(false)
       skillListingView?.displayErrorDialog()
   }
}

4. When skills in all groups are fetched, the data in adapter is updated using skillGroupAdapter.notifyDataSetChanged()

override fun updateAdapter(skills: ArrayList<Pair<String, Map<String, SkillData>>>) {
   this.skills.clear()
   this.skills.addAll(skills)
   skillGroupAdapter.notifyDataSetChanged()
}

5. The data is set to the layout in two adapters made earlier. The following is the code to set the group name and adapter to horizontal recyclerview. This is the GroupAdapter to set data to row item in vertical recyclerview.

override fun onBindViewHolder(holder: GroupViewHolder?, position: Int) {
   if(skills[position].first != null)
       holder?.groupName?.text = skills[position].first
   holder?.skillList?.setHasFixedSize(true)
   val mLayoutManager = LinearLayoutManager(context, LinearLayoutManager.HORIZONTAL, false)
   holder?.skillList?.layoutManager = mLayoutManager
   holder?.skillList?.adapter = SkillListAdapter(context, skills[position])
}

6. Similarly, the data of each individual element in the horizontal recyclerview is set in the skillAdapter. The data set are title, examples, description and image. We have used Picasso library to load images from the URL.

override fun onBindViewHolder(holder: SkillViewHolder?, position: Int) {
   val skillData = skillDetails.second.values.toTypedArray()[position]

   if(skillData.skillName == null || skillData.skillName.isEmpty()){
       holder?.skillPreviewTitle?.text = context.getString(R.string.no_skill_name)
   } else {
       holder?.skillPreviewTitle?.text = skillData.skillName
   }

   if( skillData.descriptions == null || skillData.descriptions.isEmpty()){
       holder?.skillPreviewDescription?.text = context.getString(R.string.no_skill_description)
   } else {
       holder?.skillPreviewDescription?.text = skillData.descriptions
   }

   if(skillData.examples == null || skillData.examples.isEmpty())
       holder?.skillPreviewExample?.text = StringBuilder("\"").append("\"")
   else
       holder?.skillPreviewExample?.text = StringBuilder("\"").append(skillData.examples[0]).append("\"")

   if(skillData.image == null || skillData.image.isEmpty()){
       holder?.previewImageView?.setImageResource(R.drawable.ic_susi)
   } else {
       Picasso.with(context.applicationContext).load(StringBuilder(imageLink)
               .append(skillDetails.first.replace(" ","%20")).append("/en/").append(skillData.image).toString())
               .fit().centerCrop()
               .into(holder?.previewImageView)
   }
}

Summary

So, this blog talked about how the Skill Listing feature in SUSI Android App is implemented. This included how a network call is made, logic for making different network calls, making a nested horizontal recyclerview inside vertical recyclerview, etc. So, If you are looking forward to contribute to SUSI Android App, this can help you a little. But if not so, this may also help you in understanding and how you can implement nested recyclerviews similar to Google Play Store.

References

  1. To know about servlets https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Java_servlet
  2. To see how to implement one https://www.javatpoint.com/servlet-tutorial
  3. To see how to make network calls in android using Retrofit https://guides.codepath.com/android/Consuming-APIs-with-Retrofit
  4. To see how to implement Horizontal recyclerView inside Vertical recyclerView http://android-pratap.blogspot.in/2015/12/horizontal-recyclerview-in-vertical.html
  5. To see how to implement custom RecyclerView Adapter https://www.survivingwithandroid.com/2016/09/android-recyclerview-tutorial.html

Implementing Feedback Feature in SUSI Android App

Recently, on SUSI Server, a new servlet was added which is used to rate SUSI Skills either positive or negative. The server stores the rating of a particular skill in a JSON file. These ratings help in improving answers provided by SUSI. So, the server part is done and it was required to implement this in the SUSI Android App. In this blog, I will cover the topic of implementation of the Rating or Feedback feature in SUSI Android App. This will including all the cases when feedback should be sent, when it should not be sent, when to send positive feedback, when to send negative feedback, etc.

API Information

For rating a SUSI Skill, we have to call on  /cms/rateSkill.json providing 5 parameters which are:

  1. model: The model of SUSI Skill. (String)
  2. group: The Group under the model in which that particular skill resides. (String)
  3. language: The language of skill. (String)
  4. skill: This is skill name. (String)
  5. rating: This can be two strings, either “positive” or “negative”. String)

Basically, in the SUSI Skill Data repo (in which all the skills are stored), models, groups language etc are part of folder structure.

So, if a skill is located here

https://github.com/fossasia/susi_skill_data/blob/master/models/general/Knowledge/en/news.txt

This would mean

model = general

group = Knowledge

language = en

skill = news

rating = positive/negative

Implementation in SUSI Android App

    

So, when the like button on a particular skill is clicked, a positive call is made and when the dislike button is clicked, a negative call is made.

Let’s see example when the thumbs up button or like button is clicked.

There can be three cases possible:

  1. None of Like button or dislike button is clicked already: In this case, initially, both like and dislike button will be transparent/hollow. So, when like button is clicked, the like button will be colored blue and a call will be made with positive feedback.
  2. Like button is already clicked: In this case, like button is already clicked. So, it will already be blue. So, when user clicks again on positive button, it should get back to normal/hollow indicating rating which was sent is cancelled and a a call will be made with negative feedback thus cancelling or neutralizing the earlier, positive feedback.
  3. Dislike button is already clicked: In this case, the dislike button is already blue, indicating a negative call is already made. So, now when the like button is clicked, we need to cancel the earlier negative feedback call and sending another negative feedback call. Thus, sending two negative feedback calls. And after that coloring dislike button as blue.

Look at the code below. It is self explanatory. There are three if-else conditions covering all the above mentioned three cases.

thumbsUp.setOnClickListener(new View.OnClickListener() {
   @Override
   public void onClick(View view) {
       thumbsUp.setImageResource(R.drawable.thumbs_up_solid);
       if(!model.isPositiveRated() && !model.isNegativeRated()) {
           rateSusiSkill(Constant.POSITIVE, model.getSkillLocation(), context);
           setRating(true, true);
       } else if(!model.isPositiveRated() && model.isNegativeRated()) {
           setRating(false, false);
           thumbsDown.setImageResource(R.drawable.thumbs_down_outline);
           rateSusiSkill(Constant.POSITIVE, model.getSkillLocation(), context);
           sleep(500);
           rateSusiSkill(Constant.POSITIVE, model.getSkillLocation(), context);
           setRating(true, true);
       } else if (model.isPositiveRated() && !model.isNegativeRated()) {
           rateSusiSkill(Constant.NEGATIVE, model.getSkillLocation(), context);
           setRating(false, true);
           thumbsUp.setImageResource(R.drawable.thumbs_up_outline);
       }
   }
});

Similarly for when dislike button is clicked, the above three mentioned cases still hold resulting in this code snippet.

thumbsDown.setOnClickListener(new View.OnClickListener() {
   @Override
   public void onClick(View view) {
       thumbsDown.setImageResource(R.drawable.thumbs_down_solid);
       if(!model.isPositiveRated() && !model.isNegativeRated()) {
           rateSusiSkill(Constant.NEGATIVE, model.getSkillLocation(), context);
           setRating(true, false);
       } else if(model.isPositiveRated() && !model.isNegativeRated()) {
           setRating(false, true);
           thumbsUp.setImageResource(R.drawable.thumbs_up_outline);
           rateSusiSkill(Constant.NEGATIVE, model.getSkillLocation(), context);
           sleep(500);
           rateSusiSkill(Constant.NEGATIVE, model.getSkillLocation(), context);
           setRating(true, false);
       } else if (!model.isPositiveRated() && model.isNegativeRated()) {
           rateSusiSkill(Constant.POSITIVE, model.getSkillLocation(), context);
           setRating(false, false);
           thumbsDown.setImageResource(R.drawable.thumbs_down_outline);
       }
   }
});

Summary

So, this blog talked about how the Feedback feature in SUSI Android App is implemented. This included how a network call is made, logic for sending positive/negative feedback, logic to withdraw feedback etc. So, If you are looking forward to contribute to SUSI Android App, this can help you a little. But if not so, this may also help you in understanding and how rating mechanism in social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Reddit, etc work.

References

  1. To know about servlets https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Java_servlet
  2. To see how to implement one https://www.javatpoint.com/servlet-tutorial
  3. To see how to make network calls in android using Retrofit https://guides.codepath.com/android/Consuming-APIs-with-Retrofit
  4. To see how to implement click listeners on button https://developer.android.com/reference/android/view/View.OnClickListener.html

Dynamic Base URL Support in the Open Event Organizer App

Open Event API Server acts as a backend for Open Event Organizer Android App. The server has a development instance running on the web for developers. Developers use this instance to try out new feature additions, bug fixings and other such changes in the source code. And when confirmed working, these changes are updated to the main running instance which is kept live throughout for the users. Similarly for Android app developers, to test the app with both the instances, we have implemented the dynamic base URL support in the app. The app has a default base URL set to development instance or main instance dependent on the debug mode. That means the app will use a server on developer instance when used under debug mode and will use a main instance server if used under release mode. The app also provides an option to enter an alternate URL while login in the app which replaces default base URL in the app for the session.

In the organizer app, we are using Retrofit + Okhttp for handling network requests and dagger for dependency injection. The OkhttpClient provider in NetworkModule class looks like:

@Provides
@Singleton
OkHttpClient providesOkHttpClient(HostSelectionInterceptor interceptor) {
   return new OkHttpClient.Builder()
       .addNetworkInterceptor(new StethoInterceptor())
       .build();
}

 

Retrofit had a support for mutable base URL in the earlier versions but the feature is no longer available in the recent versions. We are using Interceptor class for changing base URL. The class has a method named intercept, which gets called at each network request. In this method, base URL is reset to the new URL.

So first you have to extend Interceptor class and reset base URL in the intercept method. The Interceptor class in the app looks like:

public final class HostSelectionInterceptor implements Interceptor {
   private String host;
   private String scheme;

   public HostSelectionInterceptor(){
       //Intentionally left blank
   }

   public void setInterceptor(String url) {
       HttpUrl httpUrl = HttpUrl.parse(url);
       scheme = httpUrl.scheme();
       host = httpUrl.host();
   }

   @Override
   public Response intercept(Chain chain) throws IOException {
       Request original = chain.request();

       // If new Base URL is properly formatted then replace the old one
       if (scheme != null && host != null) {
           HttpUrl newUrl = original.url().newBuilder()
               .scheme(scheme)
               .host(host)
               .build();
           original = original.newBuilder()
               .url(newUrl)
               .build();
       }
       return chain.proceed(original);
   }
}

 

The class has a private string field host to save base URL. The method setInterceptor is used to change the base URL. Once the base URL is changed, thereafter all the network requests use changed URL to call. So now our interceptor is ready which can be used to support dynamic base URL in the app. This interceptor is added to Okhttp builder using its method addInterceptor.

@Provides
@Singleton
HostSelectionInterceptor providesHostSelectionInterceptor() {
   return new HostSelectionInterceptor();
}

@Provides
@Singleton
OkHttpClient providesOkHttpClient(HostSelectionInterceptor interceptor) {
   return new OkHttpClient.Builder()
       .addInterceptor(interceptor)
       .addNetworkInterceptor(new StethoInterceptor())
       .build();
}

 

And now you are able to change base URL just by using the setInterceptor method of Interceptor class from anywhere in the app. And by then all the network calls use the updated base URL.

Application

I will show you here, how exactly this works in the Open Event Organizer app. On the login page, we have provided an option to enter an alternate base URL.

                                

We have kept a default URL checked. The default URL is set as per debug mode. This is done by setting the fields in the build.gradle. The code looks like:

buildTypes {
       release {
           ...
           buildConfigField "String", "DEFAULT_BASE_URL", '"https://www.eventyay.com/api/v1/"'
       }
       debug {
           buildConfigField "String", "DEFAULT_BASE_URL", '"https://open-event-dev.herokuapp.com/api/v1/"'
       }
   }

 

The field is used in the app as:

private final String DEFAULT_BASE_URL = BuildConfig.DEFAULT_BASE_URL;

 

On login, the loginPresenter calls setInterceptor method of the Interceptor to update the URL according to the user’s input. And the base URL is changed in the app for further network requests.

Links:
1. Gist link for Interceptor implementation code – https://gist.github.com/swankjesse/8571a8207a5815cca1fb
2. Google dagger dependency injector Github Repo
3. Retrofit http client Github Repo
4. Okhttp client Github Repo

Implement Caching in the Live Feed in the Open Event Android App

In the Open Event Android App, a live feed from the event’s Facebook page was recently implemented. Since it was a live feed, it was decided that it was futile to store it in the Realm database of the app. The data of the live feed didn’t persist anywhere, hence the feed used to be empty when the app ran without the internet connection.

To solve the problem of data persistence, it was decided to store the feed in the cache. Now, there were two paths before us – use retrofit okhttp cache management or use volley. Since retrofit is used to make the API requests in the app, we used the former. To implement caching with retrofit, its API response should include the cache control header. Since it was not a response generated by a personal server, interceptors were needed to force change the request.

Interceptors

Interceptors are a powerful mechanism that can monitor, rewrite, and retry calls. The solution was to use interceptors to rewrite the calls to force use of cache. Two interceptors were added, application interceptor for the request and the network interceptor for the response.

Implementation

Create a cache file to store the response.

private static Cache provideCache() {
   Cache cache = null;
   try {
       cache = new Cache(new File(OpenEventApp.getAppContext().getCacheDir(), "facebook-feed-cache"),
               10 * 1024 * 1024); // 10 MB
   } catch (Exception e) {
       Timber.e(e, "Could not create Cache!");
   }
   return cache;
}

 

Create a network interceptor by chaining the response with the cache control header and removing the pragma header to force use of cache.

private static Interceptor provideCacheInterceptor() {
   return chain -> {
       Response response = chain.proceed(chain.request());

       // re-write response header to force use of cache
       CacheControl cacheControl = new CacheControl.Builder()
               .maxAge(2, TimeUnit.MINUTES)
               .build();

       return response.newBuilder()
               .removeHeader("Pragma")
               .header(CACHE_CONTROL, cacheControl.toString())
               .build();
   };
}

 

Create an application interceptor by chaining the request with the cache control header for stale responses and removing the pragma header to make the feed available for offline usage.

private static Interceptor provideOfflineCacheInterceptor() {
   return chain -> {
       Request request = chain.request();

       if (!NetworkUtils.haveNetworkConnection(OpenEventApp.getAppContext())) {
           CacheControl cacheControl = new CacheControl.Builder()
                   .maxStale(7, TimeUnit.DAYS)
                   .build();

           request = request.newBuilder()
                   .removeHeader("Pragma")
                   .cacheControl(cacheControl)
                   .build();
       }

       return chain.proceed(request);
   };
}

 

Finally add the cache and the two interceptors while building the okhttp client.

OkHttpClient okHttpClient = okHttpClientBuilder.addInterceptor(new HttpLoggingInterceptor()
       .setLevel(HttpLoggingInterceptor.Level.BASIC))
       .addInterceptor(provideOfflineCacheInterceptor())
       .addNetworkInterceptor(provideCacheInterceptor())
       .cache(provideCache())
       .build();

 

Conclusion

Working of apps without the internet connection builds up a strong case for corner cases while testing. It is therefore critical to persist data however small to avoid crashes and bad user experience.

Resources

  • Complete code reference

https://github.com/fossasia/open-event-android/pull/1750

  • Tutorial on etags in response

https://futurestud.io/tutorials/retrofit-2-activate-response-caching-etag-last-modified

  • Tutorial on caching in Retrofit

https://caster.io/episodes/retrofit-2-offline-cache/

  • Retrofit Documentation

http://square.github.io/retrofit/

  • Okhttp Interceptors Documentation

https://github.com/square/okhttp/wiki/Interceptors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Error Handling in Retrofit 2

For the Open Event android app we were using retofit 1.9 with an okhttp stack plus a gson parser but recently retrofit 2.0 was released and it was a major update in the sense that it a lot of things have been changed.

For starters, you don’t have to declare synchronous and asynchronous requests upfront and you can just decide that while executing. The code for that will look something like this. This is how we define our request methods in our api service

import retrofit.Call;
public interface APIService {
   @POST(“/list”)
   Call<Repo> loadRepo();
}

Now if we want to make a synchronous request, we can make it like

Call<Repo> call = service.loadRepo();
Repo repo = call.execute();

and for an asynchronous request, we can call enqueue()

Call<Repo> call = service.loadRepo();
call.enqueue(new Callback<Repo>() {
    @Override
    public void onResponse(Response<Repo> response) {
    // Get result Repo from response.body()    
    }
    @Override
    public void onFailure(Throwable t) {

    }
});

And another thing that changed in the async call throws a throwable on failure, so essentially the RetrofitError class is gone and since we were using that in our app, we had to modify the whole error handling in the app, basically from the grounds up.

So, when we decided to move to retrofit 2 after the stable version was released, we had to change a lot of code and the main part that was affected was the error handling. So, replacing the retrofitError class, I used the throwable directly to retrieve the error type something like this

if (error.getThrowable() instanceof IOException) { 
    errorType = “Timeout”; 
    errorDesc = String.valueOf(error.getThrowable().getCause()); 
} 
else if (error.getThrowable() instanceof IllegalStateException) {                 
    errorType = “ConversionError”; 
    errorDesc = String.valueOf(error.getThrowable().getCause()); 
} else { 
    errorType = “Other Error”; 
    errorDesc = String.valueOf(error.getThrowable().getLocalizedMessage()); 
}

This was ofcourse for all failure events. And to handle all response events I compared the HTTP status codes and displayed the errors :

Integer statusCode = response.getStatusCode(); 
if (statusCode.equals(404)) { 
    // Show Errors in a dialog
    showErrorDialog(“HTTP Error”, statusCode + “Api Not Found”); 
}

This is how we can compare other HTTP errors in retrofit and assign the correct status accordingly. I personally think that this is a better implementation than Retrofit 1.9 and the RetrofitError was a bit tedious to work with. It wasn’t very thought of before implementation because it was not easy to tell what kind of error exactly occured. With Response codes, one can see what are the exact error one faces and can gracefully handle these errors.