Apps‎ > ‎

BostonSciFi

I've been attending the Boston Sci-Fi film festival off and on for the past 26 years.  I began attending at SF-14 back in 1989, only a few years after being married and before having any children; a few years ago I attended SF-37 with my younger son (age 19) and had just as much fun as I did 26 years ago at SF-14.  I managed the web pages for the film festival for several years and am still the maintainer of their message board

This year I wrote a small App for my Android, also used by about 45 people in the audience, to keep track of the movies, descriptions, etc. This is not much different than many conference "track" apps that are out there now, with the main difference being that this was custom written for the 37th and then later the 38th Annual Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival.  This app allowed us to
  • Order Merchandise
  • Keep an updated version of the movie schedule
  • View festival descriptions of the movies (which are different than IMDb descriptions)
  • Have a live link right to the movie entry in the IMDb to access movie info, trivia, cast lists, etc.
  • Interface with Twitter, maintaining proper #hashtags
The program essentially downloads the movie list and associated data (such as graphics, merchandise price lists, etc.) from theBoard.net, which is my LINUX server currently running in my basement.  It would then construct the lists for display.  Twitter can also be configured to allow the app to send tweets (authentication was completed using XAUTH) -- this is a registered Twitter application.  A service is also launched and controlled from the app to monitor tweets. This same service would alert the user for upcoming films, allowing the user to step outside of the theater and return on-time for the next movie.  This was very useful during this year's show as, due to a technical difficulty, there was a 32 minute delay in movie start times that began at 10pm. A quick update to the database on theBoard.net shifted the movie times accordingly.

Due to the nature of this application, it is out-of-date after President's Day, at the close of the film festival and is currently being reworked for SF-41 in February 2016.  The current version is using the default colors for the user's device. Future versions will have a "night" viewing mode of black/red for use in the darkened theater. 

Screenshots are available below:
 
 
This is the main screen.  It is shown to the user after the Splash Screen.  In general, I have very mixed feelings about the need for splash screens on handheld devices. Normally I am not a fan and do not usually include one. However, this application does need to download from the web and configure the files the first time it is executed. Subsequent launches involve a check for updates. While this is optional and done by the service, for potential branding purposes I do use one for this app.

The two main elements to point out here are the Movie List and the Flight Plan.  These both show the same general pieces of information but are configured very differently and shown in the screenshots below.
 
 
The Flight Plan is the list of movies in play order. This is information available directly from the hard copy of the festival's program.  With the exception that you do not need a flashlight to read it in the dark.  

A long-click will allow you to receive an alert 15 minutes before the movie begins.  People often wander outside of the theater to grab some food, coffee, or a quick nap. This alert, while time-based, is updated 15 minutes prior to the start of the movie to check with the database at theBoard.net to make sure that the movie's start time hasn't changed.  If it has, the alert will still be triggered but notify the user of the changed start time.
 
 
Like the flight plan, the movie list has the list of movies. The ordering is simply different and shown alphabetically.  While this can easily be managed with the use of a pulldown to change the sort, for quick use and easily switching, it is accessible by an entry on the main screen instead.
 
 
A short-click on any movie entry will display quick-look information for the user, including the start time and description from the program (aka "flight plan").  Also available on this screen are quick links to the IMDb to see the official entries in the IMDb.  Another quick link allows the user to view and send tweets.  

Each movie has #hashtags associated with it, as well as an overshadowing #tag for the festival. By having the #tags automatically added by the application, it eliminates the need for the user to enter them, potentially incorrectly.  

The service portion, when activated, will download and store tweets as well making it so that the user does not need to constantly monitor a particular movie's Twitter feed.  For security reasons, the link to Twitter is done through XAUTH, no password information is stored for the user.

Note that this application is a registered Twitter application and must be authorized by the user as part of the XAUTH authentication.
 
 
The built-in web browser will display the IMDb information with a simple click.  Often, during a movie, one may wish to get information regarding the current film. This quick link to the IMDb is intended to facilitate this need for the user.

Comments