Brian Conrad

Software Development and More.

Over the Top Programming Examples

One of the problems I run into developing for a new platform, SDK or toolset is finding examples that are not “over the top”. Seems that some of the SDK developers feel the need to write a kitchen sink example that you have to wade through to just figure out how something works. It’s like their kitchen sink (or Swiss army knife) is intended to be a resume for their next job instead of helping developers get up and running quickly.

I’ve been attempting to do some cross development with Visual Studio 2015 and Xamarin. I’ve written apps on Xamarin for Android only and have developed some apps for Windows using C#. Next up was trying out the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) to make one app that could run on Windows, Android, iPhone and Windows Phone. That is the goal of UWP but it’s really not quite there yet.

The app I wanted to develop is a new astrology program for those platforms. Astrology programs are generally pretty simple as far as the interface goes. You have some screens or pages which consist of text, lists and …. horoscopes which of course require graphics though simple graphics.

When I first developed an astrology program in 1997 it was for Windows and the purpose was to learn C++. I wound up using the Microsoft Foundation Class (MFC) for my first Windows app “Junior Jyotish”. All the graphics support was there for drawing horoscopes. Around the 2005 I started developing a version in Java. Again all the graphics support was there. In 2009 when I started Android development, again all the graphics support was there. When I developed a few programs in C# using MonoDevelop on Linux, all the graphics support was there. When I tried some Android apps on Xamarin the graphics support was there as Xamarin (now available in Visual Studio) provides a C# layer on top of the Android API.

But with UWP when I went to draw a horoscope I hit a brick wall. Horoscopes consist of lines and text. If it is a wheel chart then circles. But all that is just basic graphics. UWP does not have much of any graphics support. The way of creating and importing a graphic is clunky.

So the Xamarin folks are implementing Skia, a graphics library. But it hellacious to get working. All I wanted was a simple graphics example that would draw maybe just a box. Oh, you’ll find examples but just of the calls to Skia. What is missing is a complete example that draws that box (or graphic element) on a Xamarin Form. Why don’t they have that?

Instead there is this overblown set of examples on GitHub included in the Skia library. To build those is high voodoo. Too much is assumed of the developer to get them working. Or they were really never even tested by the developers who wrote them. Running the build command from the Windows 10 Powershell throws an error. Great! Common guys, just give us a simple VS example like I mentioned above. Experienced developers do not want to unwind your complicated samples to figure out how to get things working.

This was one thing that Microsoft got right back in the and still sometimes do: one simple example to get you started that will actually build and run. So for now UWP is really not ready for prime time.


I did find a simple demo of how to use the Skia library. You can find it here: