Monthly Archives: July 2019

NativeScript 6.0

Wow, a major update was just released today with NativeScript 6.0

It has some awesome features; but since it is a major bump this is when all the breaking changes come out to play. And we have some huge breaking changes in v6.0. The largest change is to remove the legacy build system.

Features

  • New Themes

Android Runtime:

  • AndroidX (breaking change)
  • Worker communication is using the original JSON method, which fixes data corruption issues with data being transferred from worker to main thread.
  • v8 - v7.5
  • Some more SBG Fixes

iOS Runtime

  • JavaScriptCore 12.3
  • Issues with Building application with newer versions of XCode resolved

Webpack

  • process is now no longer forced undefined.
  • No longer need all screens names ending with -page
  • All XML, CSS, SCSS, JS, TS is now included in app
  • Lots and Lots of bug fixes

CLI

  • Node < 10 is not recommended, and < 8 is unsupported
  • XCode < 10 is unsupported
  • TNS Migrate to update your app to 6.0 has been added
  • Lots of bug fixes and changes for full 6.0 support

Core Modules

  • textChange and checkedChange events now fire again in Core
  • Animation of Height/Width
  • New Tab / Bottom Nav components
  • Font Icon Support in Actionbar and Tabviews

Breaking Changes

Now for the fun part; as is the normal reason for a major bump in version is all the breaking changes; this version has a lot, I'll mention the top changes. If you are a plugin developer; some of these will have to be fixed before your plugin will work in 6.0.

  • AndroidApplication.currentContext is removed (use AndroidApplication.context)
  • view.observe has been remove (use view.on)
  • ios.getter has been removed - use property directly.
  • AndroidX support breaks many plugins
  • Application.start is removed (use Application.run)
  • builder.loadPage is removed (use createViewFromEntry)
  • dependency-observable file/class removed
  • showModal deprecated function versions have been removed
  • AndroidActivityCallbacks.onCreate has changed has added additional parameters

Breaking Change: Removal of Legacy and standardize on Webpack

This is one of the largest changes in NativeScript 6. They released 5.4 which made webpack as the standard build, and made legacy the obsolete build system. This made 5.4, a release which had lots of issues. In fact a large chunk of the 5.4's I had to re-enable legacy mode because 5.4 was just too broken to actually work the new webpack only mode. I have another blog post on how to have a side-by-side to help deal with this issue; if you are one of the lucky ones that run into 6.0 issue that are because of webpack. As time progresses, and the issues are ironed out -- the webpack only build does offer a lot of benefits -- but during the transition; it could be a bit dicey...

Some Known Issues:

  • (Webpack) Each workers will drastically increase the size of your application (Fix already in master)
  • (Webpack) Having Workers and HMR don't work properly (use --no-hmr flag)

Running NativeScript 5.4 and NativeScript 6.0 side-by-side.

For those who have been hiding in the hills for a while; you may not have noticed that the cool news for NativeScript is that we have a new version that has been coming for a while. 6.0 was officially released today!

Well 6.0 has been release; and there are a lot of things to like in 6.0, but if 6.0 doesn't work for your app; you might still need to run 5.4 to get your work done. Unfortunately, the NativeScript team did not listen to my advice and release a 5.5 to continue testing the new webpack only builds, so we now have a 6.0 with still a lot of webpack issues and now no easy work around because legacy mode was removed in 6.0.

One of the techniques, I used while testing 6.0RC on plugins and apps and reporting the massive number of issues I ran into; is making my install side-by-side. So now I have a tns5 command which is my tns 5.4.2 install. And then tns is my 6.0 release.

The first step to run a side-by-side install is to do a npm i -g nativescript@5.4.2 to install 5.4.2 (the last 5.4 version) on your machine in the global node_modules. Now depending on the OS; this directory will be in a couple places:

The easiest way to find out where it is stored is to run the following command in your command or terminal shell: npm root -g

Under most linux installs this folder is here:
- /usr/local/lib/node_modules

Under Mac OSX the folder can be in a couple places, depending on how you installed it.
For example because I run nvm on my mac, my folder is located here:
/Users/nathanael/.nvm/versions/node/v10.15.3/lib/node_modules

And on windows 10, it is located typically here:
%USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\npm\node_modules

But using the npm root -g will tell you exactly where it is on your machine.

So first navigate to this folder and find the "nativescript" folder; and then copy it in its entirety to the "nativescript5" folder. This gives you a fully working NS 5.4.2 version in a different folder that won't be overwritten when you do the npm i -g nativescript@latest which will give you the NS 6.x version.

The final piece of this puzzle is creating the tns5 command, on my mac the folder for where to put it is:
~/.nvm/versions/node/v10.15.3/bin

So I created the tns5 symlink to point to ../lib/node_modules/nativescript5/bin/tns

On Linux we needed to create the symlink in /usr/local/bin; and so I created the tns5 symlink to ../lib/node_modules/nativescript5/bin/tns (the exact same relative path as mac)

Steps:

  • npm i -g nativescript@5.4.2
  • npm root -g
  • cd (folder listed from npm root -g command)
  • copy nativescript to nativescript5
  • npm i -g nativescript@latest
  • create a tns5 symlink

This should allow you to have a permanent install of v5.4.2 and then your normal update-able version .

NativeScript Plugins and the costs...

A NativeScript Logo in Puzzle Form
NativeScript Plugins

Now most of you are not plugin developers; and as such do not understand what costs go into creating or maintaining an open source plugin. Normally I wouldn’t even think to post something like this; and I don't want this to be seen as "whoa is me". But a statement from someone at Progress; made me realize that many others are probably also be under the mistaken idea of all the costs of a plugin and so I now feel I should address this...

So here is the summary of the statement made to me in a conversation:

Plugins are either paid for mostly by companies, clients, or those that are free are still excellent advertising for your services. So releasing a plugin is a win/win situation.”

The funny thing is before I started doing NativeScript plugins; I am sure I thought the exact same thing. So, I can’t fault anyone for thinking this! It is very easy to think plugins and open source work is created by “mostly” companies, as it makes logical sense – all the press Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon generate from their open source work. This can also be especially true, if you are doing open source work and being paid by a company for your work (like the NativeScript team, and the many teams at Google, Microsoft, etc that are producing open source work). So, I can honestly see how this is the prevalent view.

In a nutshell there are three separate claims here we will discuss:

  • Plugins are mostly paid for.
  • Plugins that aren’t paid for; are good advertising
  • Releasing them is a win/win situation.

Claim: Plugins are mostly paid for. (TLDR: false)

First of all, being fairly in tune with the plugin community; to my knowledge the majority of all the plugins in the NativeScript community are actually done as a mix of paid and unpaid work and those that were paid, are very very rarely still supported by the company who initially funded or released it. So even if a company actually sponsored the plugin, there is no followup money to continue maintaining or enhancing it. Meaning the author is almost always again donating their time to make this plugin work and/or do maintenance on it!

Since I really don't like talking in hypotheticals; we will use my plugins as an example. 21 of my 25 open source plugins were done completely on my own dime. Meaning, no actual clients paid me for any of that work. That includes some of my most popular plugins like NativeScript-Permissions and NativeScript-Sqlite (*3).

A lot of people have assumed that the authors of these plugins are paid by a company to maintain them. I may list Master Technology or nStudio on my plugins documentation to try and advertise my services, since I do own/co-own those companies. But I do not see a dime of money from anybody (nor even from my own companies) directly for working on any of my own plugins. Pretty much all work on all my open source plugins is in on my own totally unpaid time. These were all done either to help one of my own personal projects, for the technical challenge, or to help the community. Occasionally, I might actually fix a bug or add a feature that can be directly attributed to a client needing to use the plugin, which then it might be paid for. But that is not as common as many might think. (Lets just say in the 4 years I've done this, I've only had a handful of requests.)

For a truly complete picture of at least my plugins; 4 of my 25 plugins (mainly smaller plugins), actually had some real paid parts to them. Yay! Again, not normally enough to actually pay for the entire open source development of the plugin. But enough to pay for some or several of the extra features in them to meet that clients specific needs. So yes, there can be some money in it. But in most cases, it is still not even enough to typically pay for just the time that went into creating that plugin in the first place, let alone any of the time to support it or maintain it.

In addition as one of the few developers that has actual commercial plugins, I can also speak on this side of the coin. Even the money made on my commercial plugins has not actually paid for the actual development costs of those commercial plugins. In fact there used to be another developer with a commercial plugin -- he recently left the NativeScript market. There just hasn’t been enough purchases. And finally, I do have a lot more private/unreleased plugins that were in a several of the cases mostly (or even in a some cases, fully) funded by clients. In this aspect; there could have been good money involved with some of these. (*1)

So based on my own personal experiences, and many discussions with others in the community; I would have to say there isn’t nearly as much money going around to deal with making them -- let alone any money for support, bug fixing and/or documentation. One of the most famous examples of this issue. The OpenSSL library; it underpins the entire secure parts of the internet. HTTPS is provided by OpenSSL; so browsers, servers, your phones all have OpenSSL libraries (*2) in them. The team that was maintaining this highly complex software, was only getting about $2,000 a YEAR in donations; despite many many many companies using it in their hardware and software that they sold for massive profits. This matches my experience; both my donation Paypal and my attempt at a Patreon accounts have seen so little money, that I don’t even think it is enough to even get a coffee even once a month.

This is called the long tail of support: the support side still needs to happen; but no funding occurs for all the additional work that will easily exceed the initial work on the plugin over the life of the plugin.

Claim: Plugins that aren’t paid for, are good advertising (TLDR: mostly false)

Some people believe that I get paid in Advertising. That makes some logical sense, and yes I do to some extent. Since I have several of the top plugins, I won't totally dismiss this as 100% false. Let us dissect this logically. I have a pretty good grasp of the reality of this -- with my 25 open source plugins in the eco-system, and being in it since day one. That seems like a potentially large amount of advertising, I could be getting. This statement actually was very true when NS was first started; each plugin released had a huge huge amount of ability to be seen. Unfortunately, their is now well over one thousand plugins. That means even with all my plugins together – I only have approximately 2.5% of the advertising market (+/- a tad depending on popularity) and that is shrinking daily. So even the advertising I can do with them; really is simply drowned out by the other 97.5% of the plugins. Having popular plugins, or long standing well known plugins does help increase that percentage; but just the sheer volume of plugins pretty much negates a plugins ability to do much advertising. Again, having a well supported and widely used plugin; helps increase this percentage a lot -- but anyone putting a plugin into the community now -- well your new plugin is just 1 in over a 1000...

With the amount of time it takes to actually create a plugin and then maintain it -- It is actually considerably cheaper for me to spend that time just doing additional contract programming; and then be a sponsor at a conference (which can be a tax write off for smaller companies) – so that my company is seen everywhere at it. A conference can now drum up considerably more business. That company is seen with only 5 or 10 other sponsors, and might even be seen on many of the videos; tweets, etc. All the way around good press, and typically gives the company the ability to talk one on one with many potential clients and hand out even more advertising and share contact information in person. Or write blog posts like this one, that are hopefully shared everywhere. (Hi, I do contract work :-D!!!) Or just be very helpful in the community so that people know why you are considered one of the top developers in the community and so you get contacted because of that. There are several ways in the NS community to stand out; and almost all of them are considerably cheaper than writing a plugin.

Unfortunately, their is one big GOTCHA people don't realize. If the plugin is broken, it actually turns into a significant liability and so it is negative advertising! Which now means that plugin now actually turns from help into a source of long term money and time drain; as I try to make sure my free “advertisement” isn’t now a liability… Nothing inspires a potential client, more than trying your "free" plugins and it crashing. Yes, that will totally inspire them to try your paid services.

Just for those who haven't been around since the beginning of NativeScript time; there have been over 5 different sets of breaking changes to plugins over just 4 years. Each time a breaking change occurred; some of the plugins had to be completely rewritten or heavily modified to make work again. Others, fortunately had much more minor changes or if you are really lucky; no changes. But any way you cut it; all the plugins you released had to be re-tested, debugged, and upgraded to the next version of the framework. So writing plugins, this isn't a write once, and it can just sit and work forever, like plugins in many of the other communities. This is why plugins from NS 1, NS 2, NS 3, NS 4 don't work in NS 5, and of course our newest breaking changes are occurring in the brand new NativeScript 6 release. So watch a lot of plugins break again...

Claim: Its Win/Win (TLDR: LOL, So very false…)

Well you can probably guess based on the first two claims at how this goes -- since those were both false. But I have probably the one of best story to show you how false this claim is. This is a 100% true story, and I am attempting to minimize it to the best of my ability because I am not trying to make the parties look bad. I think this situation really points out how terribly lopsided this "win/win" idea really is or can be.    I can only speak to my story; but I have heard about another one in our community that is likewise just as "great".

So first lets take my awesome top rated NativeScript-Sqlite open source plugin, it was released for free, no strings attached, and developed by me for free, nobody paid me for any of the open source part of it(*3).    According to the COMOCO scale; it is worth about $150,000 in development costs. So far, nothing wrong, this was my goal for it to be something useful in the community. And I am very happy it is a useful plugin for everyone to use.   This is open source at its finest!  

So there is this small company called Kinvey, which Progress bought for ~49 million dollars a couple years ago.   Kinvey is a HIPAA compliant Database as a service; primarily focused on mobiles. They charge very large sums of money to companies for every byte of traffic / data stored.  Product is well written, and very secure -- so overall companies like paying the money for the piece of mind it gives them. Still Nothing wrong here, either. Good product, and excellent revenue stream for Progress.   They support several different mobile platforms, including NativeScript.

Does anybody want to take a guess where I'm going with this?   So when they developed their plugin for the NativeScript platform, they used one of those totally awesome open source plugins.    Any guesses to which one? Ding. Ding. Ding. Yes, you are correct – my NativeScript-Sqlite. Again, so far, nothing really bad, right...

Now I want you to really think about this.   Progress pays their programmers to build NativeScript, they also pay their programmers to create and maintain the Kinvey services and plugin (so the Progress developers all get paid). Progress also paid 49 million for Kinvey, so definitely the creators of that technology got paid. Progress also now gets paid massive amounts of money for every single byte of data stored that the app uses which has this Kinvey plugin in it. (So hopefully they are making all that money back!).   So far, let me be 100% clear – their is nothing is wrong with these people being paid, in fact they all deserve to be paid for all their work. So now every single NativeScript app that uses Kinvey has my plugin in it for all the offline features...

Everybody is happy right?    

Well, not so much. First, I have never even seen a single penny of revenue from Progress for this part of my awesome "win".  Oh well, that is the breaks of a well designed open source plugin, right?   It is being useful, its entire purpose in life. Woo Hoo, Yay! Ok, not so much -- I'll admit it is a bit annoying, they are making millions off of some of my work, and I don’t even see a single penny.   And, I do realize it is only a small (but critical) part of the NativeScript side of the project, but it is more the principle that bothers me. This story is such a common story in our industry (think OpenSSL) – I am in very good company of people whose excellent hard work is totally unpaid for and/or underfunded; but the company using it makes crazy boat loads from it. So, I'll just let it be – and we can count this as a “oh well”, and life can go on... 

Oh, I bet you thought I was done!    Ahahahahahaha....

Let’s not stop yet, it gets even worse!   So, I obviously didn't "win" on the first point (i.e. direct money).  So, what in the world could be worse? Well what about that awesome advertising/recognition that is the second point we discussed above.   Anyone want to take a guess?     Lazy person, I bet you clicked the link.  🙂   

Ok, I'll be nice and embed a picture here of the link...

Because my plugin is a declared NPM Dependency,  I also don't even get any recognition either. Nor does anyone see ANY of my documentation, my name or any of my advertising for any of my services.  So all these companies that pay Kinvey hundred's of thousands of dollars, who would be actually the perfect targets for me to do contract work for -- they don't even know I exist!   Kinvey, has my plugin so integrated, nobody even knows it even uses my code. I am totally invisible, even though my plugin is the offline part of their NativeScript plugin.  So, now we are at no money and no advertising/recognition, on something that is used to easily make millions for Kinvey.

Well, you know what; you won't believe it -- but the story continues to gets even WORSE! But we will actually stop here; my goal here isn't to make Progress and/or Kinvey look bad! My goal with this example is to actually show how much of an awesome "win/win" situation this really is for a real open source NativeScript plugin author...    The plugin was 100% funded by me, is worth about $150,000 in development costs; and it is being used in apps, which was my purpose in releasing it. But I honestly can’t think of a case anyone can make where this can really be considered an actual “win/win” situation.


So in summary; these are three separate claims here:

  • Plugins are mostly paid for. (False)
    • Very few of my released plugins are even partially paid for, let alone fully paid for. And none of them have had funding for the long tail of support.
  • Plugins that aren’t paid for; are good advertising (False)
    • Advertising from the plugin is such a small percentage of the entire market; it is more cost effective to do other forms of advertising. In addition do to all the down sides of plugins long tail of support, it will very easily become a liability or negative advertising and/or a money/time sink.
  • Releasing them is mostly a win/win situation. (False)
    • Win/Win it is not (See story above). In addition to the long tail of support; in our community, we rarely see much support or PR’s for the actual issues. The costs for the long tail of support can greatly out weight any potential benefit from the first two items.

Notes

*1 – Unreleased because the long tail of support that I mentioned, it is crazy bad in all reality and as I don’t want any bad advertising. At this moment, I am unwilling to release more “free” plugins that just require more free maintenance work and support. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my existing plugins. At some point in the future; they might get released if I can figure out ways to mitigate the costs...

*2 – There are now a couple of forks of OpenSSL that are used in some products, so OpenSSL is not in everything now; it used to be. In addition, because of a nasty vulnerability in OpenSSL a couple years ago; several of the bigger internet companies figured out that they needed to do a better job and they stepped up and started funding the OpenSSL foundation. So this is to my knowledge funding is no longer an issue for the OpenSSL foundation.

*3 – There is one of the commercial add-ons for SQLite that has been partially funded by a client. But the open source side; was not funded by anyone but me.


All company names and trademarks are owned by their respective companies.

NativeScript and Fortnite

Isn’t that an interesting title – I wonder if you can guess how I plan on tying the two together! Can we all say Click Bait! Stay tuned, and we will show you how I combine both of these into one blog post...

Now many of you know that NativeScript is 100% open source. I can take NativeScript and build the entire stack locally on my computer and never deal with Progress again, if I were to so choose. This is awesome from the standpoint that I am not technically stuck (*1) if I need to fix some issue. Many of the technology stacks in the past you could get to a point, and then if the issue was lower in the stack you were totally stuck. In my career I’ve run into this several times; and it really sucks when you can’t fix the issue because it is a issue in a lower part of the framework where you can’t get any access to it. In this case; we have full control over everything if and when we need it, so we are is a great position moving forward if using this stack.

So, the question I have seen around; and even had myself in the past was: Since NativeScript doesn’t make any money, how can Progress possibly continue to pay to keep it going? What is their business plan to turn a profit, and when will it be cut off?

Seriously; common sense says; if a product doesn’t make money after a couple years; a company will discontinue it. How many projects has Google canned that is making money; but not making as much money as they wanted to continue it? So, if the product has no real way to make money long term; then why would they keep it?

Yes, it does have a couple minor revenue streams, like paid support; but even the paid support probably doesn’t actually fully even pay for just the support techs that do all the awesome support for NativeScript. So basically NativeScript does not make any money directly. On paper; it looks like it is probably just burning money...

So why would Progress spend so much money to continue enhancing, and maintaining it, for a product that will never actually turn a profit??? Then what are our risks as the community that they will pull the plug tomorrow when they finally figure this out???

Well rest assured; I don’t believe it will discontinued any time soon. First; I would be totally shocked if most of NativeScript development costs are not written off as a very nice tax liability (*2). Smart companies have money pits in certain area for key reasons, one of the biggest is taxes. The other interesting thing is it is not really just a normal money pit used just for tax liability reasons.

NativeScript is the Advertisement. NativeScript is not a product, in that sense to Progress – it is a significant way to get you (the developer) to use Progress services. So just like some large company might pay millions of dollars in advertising; per year to try and reach you. Progress is doing the same thing – but instead they are actually targeting it specifically at developers. Virtually every dollar of advertising is being spent on developers. Who is a large part of their market target; well us developers! So it is an extremely well targeted advertisement, much better than you can do with any adwords scheme you can find!

Changing this point of view, completely changes the entire narrative of why NativeScript exists and its continued long term viability. It is no longer just a money losing venture of Progress. It is an significant advertisement to get you to use all the other Progress services. This is a critical point to understand; as this underpins the whole reason why NativeScript should continue to exist for the foreseeable future.

Since NativeScript is very much like Fortnite (see told you I would work it in!). They hand out the awesome 100% free game. And which game company has been just raking in the money (like 2.4 BILLION in 2018 alone) from a single free game? And if anyone follows Fortnite; you will know they are constantly improving it. However, they get you on all the “extra” attached revenue streams. Yes, you can play Fortnite 100% free and never spend a dime and even continue playing all the cool game modes that keep getting released.

You can also use NativeScript, create awesome apps and never actually spend a dime with Progress. Which is actually what the majority of the community does; but all Progress needs is a very small percentage of the NativeScript users to use its payed services and NativeScript ends up causing a major profit for them.

As some examples; to show how this works… Progress owns NativeScript, and say you want someone to build you an app, who is your first stop? (Especially if you are a large company!) You might see a nifty services page on Progress’s site – you contact Progress. But they do not actually do the contract work. They actually sub-contract it out to others; and take a hefty cut for that privilege. This works well for everyone involved. Or perhaps you are a independent developer; Sidekick, cloud builds, attend the conferences? All revenue streams. Larger companies; secure data storage, chatbot, ai, etc. Progress offers many of these “addon” services; and all of them have fully working integration's with NativeScript. So any development by a enterprise class company has a large chance of starting and choosing to stay with the owners of the NativeScript stack and paying for that privilege.

In other words; Progress is brilliant – they have managed to figure out how to take the same model used for Fortnite and use it on developers. So hopefully this reassures everyone that NativeScript should have a long life ahead of it. (*3)

Well played, Progress!


Notes:

*1 – I am not stuck; in that I can fix my own copy of the code and deploy the app. This does NOT mean that Progress will take your patches and fix the master so that it is fixed in the next version(s). It just means you can fix it in your copy…

*2 - Progress is a multi-national company; so they have taxes in multiple countries – different countries have different laws; but typically losses in one business unit can be used to write off tax gains in other units. So the “paper” loss of NativeScript offsets revenues from the other parts of the company, and so it then lowers some of their tax burden in probably several countries.

*3 - I am not a employee of Progress or Telerik; nor have I ever been, so this is all based on the know facts. However, this matches all the facts to a T. So, it is my strongest belief based on all public data available; that this is why NativeScript exists and will continue to exist. It also explains why Progress was willing to continue to sink million of dollars into NativeScript; and also purchased things like Kinvey for 49 million dollars.


Please note all companies names, Logos and products are owned by their respective owners and convey no endorsement of any content or other products in this post.