Software Components Overview

Below is a list of links to and brief descriptions of common software components. It's useful to keep these in mind and reference them during software design as a shorthand for code that will be written to implement the design. Implementing a component could involve just a few or many lines of code.

A suggested way to use these components in solving/coding a computing problem is to include them using a Separation of Concerns design pattern folded into what I call Layered Logic Problem Solving that includes these steps:

  1. Describe in words the problem to be solved. This might include references to software components listed below. You might also include solution acceptance criteria, possibly in the form of formal acceptance tests.
  2. Draw a block diagram of the main problem solution pieces. For more complex problems, other types of diagrams can be used.
  3. Annotate the block diagram with references to components such as those below.
  4. Code the solution in your chosen programming language.


  • Client-Server Architecture: components include:
  • HTTP Requestindicates the desired action to be performed on an identified resource - actions include: 
    • GET: retrieve data
    • HEAD: retrieve without response body
    • POST: create new subordinate data
    • OPTIONS: retrieve supported actions
    • PUT: create/replace data
    • DELETE: delete the resource
    • CONNECT: convert connection to TCP/IP tunnel, usually to facilitate HTTPS SSL
  • Internet Protocol Suite:
    • Layers: Application/Transport/Internet/Link
    • Levels: Send/Receive, Controls/Routing, Values/Translations
  • Firewall: monitor/control of incoming/outgoing traffic
  • JSON: JavaScript Object Notation, Human Readable, Attribute-Value Pairs, Java JsonObject
  • Load Balancer: distributes workload across computing resources
  • Message: data sent across processes
  • Network: allows computers to exchange data
  • Protocol: Data Formats, Address Formats, Address Mapping, Routing, Error Detection, Acknowledgements, Sequence Control, Flow Control
  • REST: Representational State Transfer, Stateless, Client-Server, JSON data
  • Socket: endpoint of a connection across a computer network


Algorithms & Processes


  • Class: object template
  • Container: collection of other objects
  • Design Patterns: reusable solutions to common software problems  
  • Object Oriented Design Patternsreusable solutions to common object oriented software problems
  • Generics: specify type or method to operate on objects
  • Cloud Computing: internet based computing that provides shared processing resources
  • Interface : all abstract methods
  • Mutability: mutable, immutable, strong vs. weak
  • Objects: variables, data structure or function referenced by an identifier
  • OOD: uses inheritance, abstraction, polymorphism, encapsulation, other design patterns


  • Ajax: groups of technologies for client-side asynchronous web applications
  • Android Fragments: UI segmenting, own lifecycle, FragmentManager
  • HTML5 Canvas:  bitmap, javascript
  • CSS:  describes the presentation of information
  • HTML:  head, body, div, script
  • Widget: simple, easy to use applicator
  • XML: markup language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents

Common Java Array Manipulation Constructs

Working with array data structures is one of the most frequently used programming functions. Arrays are implemented in a number of Java classes, such as String, Integer, and Boolean. Those arrays can be manipulated using the Java Arrays class (note that the Arrays class name is a plural). Below are some common Java array manipulation constructs.

split( )

The String split() method separates string characters into array entries using a supplied regular expression. For example, the following statement would create entries in the String array wordsArray using a blank character as a regular expression separator for processing the String wordString:

String wordString = "this is a string of words";
String[] wordsArray = wordString.split(" ");

sort( )

The Arrays sort() methods provide a variety of options for sorting array entries. Note that the array is sorted in place without returning a new array. This can be done because the array parameter is a value pointing to the array of objects. For example, the following statement would sort the words array from the split() example above using a Quicksort process in an average O(n log(n)) time performance:


binarySearch( )

The Arrays binarySearch() methods provide an efficient way to find an entry in a sorted array. For example, the following statement would find the index of the array wordsArray entry for the String entryValue in an average of O(log(n)) time performance:

int entryIndex = Arrays.binarySearch(wordsArray, entryValue);

for( )

The for() construct can be used to iterate over the entries in an array. For example, the following statement would iterate over and print every entry in wordsArray:

for (String word : wordsArray) {System.out.print(word);}

If you want to know and use the index of each entry, then this construct can be used:

for (int i=0; i<wordsArray.length; i++) {System.out.print(wordsArray(i);}

Android Data View Adapters Overview

Android APIs provide classes and methods to facilitate displaying data in various forms, such as lists, arrays and custom layouts. The graphic below shows how the various classes and methods interact to produce the desired result.

Some examples of coding and use are:


The data to be displayed can be in such forms as an Array, List, File or SQLite database. If a database is used, a Cursor object is also employed. A simple array of String values might be created and converted to an ArrayList like this:

String[] mStringArray = new String[] { "blue", "green", "yellow",
        "red", "orange", "black", "white", "purple"};
List<String> mList = Arrays.asList(mStringArray);
ArrayList<String> mArrayList = new ArrayList<String>(mList);


Cursor is an interface that provides random read-write access to the result set returned by a database query. Setting up a Cursor for an SQLite database might look like this:

MySQLiteOpenHelper mDatabaseHelper = new MySQLiteOpenHelper(this);
Cursor mCursor = mDatabaseHelper.getDataIntoCursor();
ListView mListView = (ListView) findViewById(;
MyCursorAdapter mCursorAdapter = new MyCursorAdapter(this, mCursor);

class MyCursorAdapter extends CursorAdapter {

    public MyCursorAdapter(Context context, Cursor c) {
        super(context, c);
    // Implement CursorAdapter bindView method.
    public void bindView(View view, Context context, Cursor cursor) {
        String name = cursor.getString(1);
        TextView textView = (TextView) view;
    // Implement CursorAdapter newView method.
    public View newView(Context context, 
                         Cursor cursor, ViewGroup parent) {
        TextView view = new TextView(context);
        return view;
private final class MySQLiteOpenHelper extends SQLiteOpenHelper {

    private static final String DATABASE_NAME = "myDatabase";
    private static final int DATABASE_VERSION = 1;
    private static final String CREATE_TABLE_TIMELINE = 
        "CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS table_name 
        (_id INTEGER PRIMARY KEY AUTOINCREMENT, name varchar);";

    public DatabaseHelper(Context context) {
        super(context, DATABASE_NAME, null, DATABASE_VERSION);
    public void onCreate(SQLiteDatabase db) {
        db.execSQL("INSERT INTO ddd (name) VALUES ('Name1')");
        db.execSQL("INSERT INTO ddd (name) VALUES ('Name2')");
        db.execSQL("INSERT INTO ddd (name) VALUES ('Name3')");
    public void onUpgrade(SQLiteDatabase db, 
                          int oldVersion, int newVersion) {
    public Cursor getDataIntoCursor() {
        String selectQuery = "SELECT  * FROM table_name;
        SQLiteDatabase db = this.getReadableDatabase();
        Cursor cursor = db.rawQuery(selectQuery, null);
        return cursor;


An Adapter acts as a bridge between an AdapterView and the underlying data for that view. A custom array adapter defined in Java might look like this:

class MyArrayAdapter extends ArrayAdapter<String> {
    HashMap<String, Integer> mHashMap = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
    public MyArrayAdapter(Context context, int textViewResourceId,
        List<String> objects) {
      super(context, textViewResourceId, objects);
      for (int i = 0; i < objects.size(); ++i) {
        mHashMap.put(objects.get(i), i);
    public long getItemId(int position) {
      String item = getItem(position);
      return mHashMap.get(item);
    public boolean hasStableIds() {
      return true;

The custom array adapter mArrayAdapter would be instantiated and linked to a ListView mListView with Java code like this:

final ListView mListView = (ListView) findViewById(;
final MyArrayAdapter mArrayAdapter = new MyArrayAdapter(this,
        android.R.layout.simple_list_item_1, mArrayList);


An AdapterView is a view whose children are determined by an Adapter. You might use an AdapterView like this:

private OnItemClickListener mMessageClickedHandler = 
  new OnItemClickListener() {
    public void onItemClick(AdapterView parent, 
                            View v, int position, long id) {
        // Do something in response to the click


View is the basic building block for user interface components. A view occupies a rectangular area on the screen and is responsible for drawing and event handling. A ListView contained in a layout might look like this:

<LinearLayout xmlns:android=""
    android:orientation="vertical" >
        android:layout_height="wrap_content" >


ViewGroup is a special view that can contain other views called children. A ViewGroup defined in XML might look like this:

<ViewGroup xmlns:android=""
    android:layout_width="fill_parent" >


A layout defines the visual structure for a user interface. A layout might look like this:

<LinearLayout xmlns:android=""
    android:orientation="vertical" >
        android:layout_height="wrap_content" >


An Activity provides a screen with which users can interact.

public class MyActivity extends Activity {
  protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
    . . .


A Fragment represents a behavior or a portion of user interface an an Activity. Fragment code might look like this:

public class ArticleFragment extends Fragment {
    public View onCreateView(LayoutInflater inflater, 
                             ViewGroup container,
        Bundle savedInstanceState) {
        // Inflate the layout for this fragment
        return inflater.inflate(R.layout.article_view, 
                                container, false);

Android Job Interview Topics

Because Android contains an extremely large number of Classes and Methods, it's impossible to hold all of the syntax and details in your head. For this reason, I've found that Android interview questions tend to be more conceptual in nature. For example, you might be asked how you'd approach a given problem using Android and Java constructs.

As you study the commonly used interview topics below, try to retain the main ideas and some relevant details. 

Android App Major Elements

There are many elements that can be included in an Android app. It's helpful to see how these are clustered and interact, as shown in the chart below. Only major elements are shown. The Android Developers Website provides details on the full set of app elements.

The minimum required elements are shown with a red dot. An app with just these elements wouldn't be very useful, but you can see that there are many optional elements that can be added for a variety of functions. 

Intent Messaging

Intents are used to request an action from an app component. Intents are detected and acted upon by Broadcast Receivers.


Activities manage the Displays that app users see. Fragments are modular sections of an Activity that, among other uses, facilitate app adaptation to various screen sizes and dimensions.

User Interface

The User Interface includes a variety of pre-built elements that facilitate constructing screen displays, including: View, Control, Dialog, Notification, Setting, Action Bar, Menu and Toast.


Services perform long-running operations in the background and do not provide a User Interface.

Asynchronous Operations

These elements facilitate asynchronous operations that protect the UI thread from undesirable delays. Loaders make it easy to asynchronously load data in an Activity or Fragment. AsyncTask allows performing background operations and publishing results on the UI thread without having to manipulate threads and/or handlers.

Data, Devices and Sensors

These elements facilitate the access to Data, Devices and Sensors. Connectivity provides access to devices and the Internet.  Content Providers can optionally be used to access databases and internal/external files. Sensors include: GPS, network location, accelerometer, gyroscope and more. 

Reference Elements

These elements are essential for app operation. Libraries provide access to compiled code from Google and other sources. Access to the user Display is built into the operating system. The Manifest include essential information about the app and its elements. Resources include: Layouts, Values and Drawables. Shared Preferences are use to store key-value pairs that act as global variables for the app.

Android Listeners and Toasts

This video, part of my Android Quick Code Access series of posts, explains Android Listeners and Toasts. It's from my course Learning Android App Programming published by InfiniteSkills.

The Java code for the example is below...

import java.util.Random;
import android.content.Context;
import android.os.Bundle;
import android.view.View;
import android.view.View.OnClickListener;
import android.widget.Button;
import android.widget.Toast;

public class ListenerToastMain extends Activity {
    // onCreate method.
	protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
	    // Initialize display.
           // Declare button variable for Get Answer.
	    Button getAnswer =
	    // Set listener for button.
    // Define OnClickListener for getAnswer button.
    private OnClickListener getAnswerListener = new OnClickListener() {
        public void onClick(View v){
            // Generate answer number.
            Random toastGen = new Random();
            int toastNum = toastGen.nextInt(19);
            // Get answer text.
            CharSequence text = "";
            switch (toastNum) {
                case 1:  text = getString(R.string.answer1);  break;
                case 2:  text = getString(R.string.answer2);  break;
                case 3:  text = getString(R.string.answer3);  break;
                case 4:  text = getString(R.string.answer4);  break;
                case 5:  text = getString(R.string.answer5);  break;
                case 6:  text = getString(R.string.answer6);  break;
                case 7:  text = getString(R.string.answer7);  break;
                case 8:  text = getString(R.string.answer8);  break; 
                case 9:  text = getString(R.string.answer9);  break;
                case 10: text = getString(R.string.answer10); break;
                case 11: text = getString(R.string.answer11); break;
                case 12: text = getString(R.string.answer12); break;
                case 13: text = getString(R.string.answer13); break;
                case 14: text = getString(R.string.answer14); break;
                case 15: text = getString(R.string.answer15); break;
                case 16: text = getString(R.string.answer16); break;
                case 17: text = getString(R.string.answer17); break;
                case 18: text = getString(R.string.answer18); break;
                case 19: text = getString(R.string.answer19); break;
                case 20: text = getString(R.string.answer20); break;       		    
            // Toast answer.
            Context context = getApplicationContext();
            int duration = Toast.LENGTH_LONG;
            Toast toast = Toast.makeText(context, text, duration);

Android Database Query Display

This is part of the Android Quick Code Access series of posts. The code below displays the results of a Database Query. You'll need to run the Query code in a background thread in your production version.

// Database Display Activity.
public class DatabaseDisplayActivity extends ListActivity {

   // Database display columns.
   private static final String[] PROJECTION = new String[] {
    	COLUMN_NAME_1,   // 0 Position
   // Activity onCreate method.
   protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
       // Database Query. 
       Cursor cursor = managedQuery(
       // Cursor columns to display.
       String[] dataColumns = {     		
       } ;
       // View IDs for formatting.
       int[] viewIDs = { 	
       // Adapter for the ListView.
       SimpleCursorAdapter adapter = new SimpleCursorAdapter(       		
       // Binder to display row results.
       adapter.setViewBinder(new SimpleCursorAdapter.ViewBinder() {
           public boolean setViewValue(
                View view, Cursor cursor, int columnIndex) {
                // Get row of cursor.
                String displayText = 

                // Set text in display.
                ((TextView) view).setText(displayText);
                return true;
       // List Adapter.

Android Eclipse Waiting for Debugger

This is part of the Android Quick Code Access series of posts. Depending on the specifics of your Android code, you may need to add code to force a wait for the Eclipse debugger. This is especially true for asynchronous code functions like background threads. Without the code below, you may see Eclipse break points not being triggered. You might think that your code is broken, when in fact you just need to add a code line to force it to wait for the debugger to catch up.


Android Allowing Main Thread I/O

An important aspect of Android App design is to never block the main UI thread with long running tasks. Doing so can result in an Application Not Responding (ANR) condition that can cause your App to be stopped. To prevent ANR conditions, always perform long running tasks such as I/O in background threads.

If you need to test I/O access from the main UI thread, you'll need to change the Thread Policy as shown below. Only do this for testing. In your production App, make sure you perform I/O operation in a background thread.

StrictMode.ThreadPolicy policy = 
    new  StrictMode.ThreadPolicy.Builder().permitAll().build(); 

Android Content Provider/SQLite Methods

There are a number of key methods for accessing data via an Android Content Provider or directly on the underlying SQLite database.  The table below summarizes the method parameters and return values. The graphic is from the video training course Learning Android App Programming.

P Versus NP Complexity Theory

The P Versus NP issue deals with whether every problem whose solution can be quickly verified by a computer can also be quickly solved by a computer. This is a major unsolved problem in computer science.

In common, practical terms, it deals with how to identify problems that are either extremely difficult or impossible to solve.  In order of difficulty from easy to hard, problems are classified as P, NP, NP-Complete and NP-Hard.

So why do we care? When approaching complex problems, it's useful to have at least some idea of whether the problem is precisely solvable, or if an approximation is the best that can be accomplished. 

Sorting Algorithms

Before delving into the large variety of sorting algorithms, it's important to understand that there are simple ways to perform sorts in most programming languages. For example, in Java, the Collections class contains a sort method that can be implemented as simply as:


where list is an object such as an ArrayList. Some aspects of the Java sort() method to note are:

  • You can also use the Java Comparator class methods to implement your own list item comparison functions for specialized sorting order needs.
  • The Java Collections class (plural) is different than the Collection class (singular).
  • Which sorting algorithm (see below) is used in the Collections.sort() implementation depends on the implementation approach chosen by the Java language developers. You can find implementation notes for Java Collections.sort() here. It currently uses a modified merge sort that performs in the range of Big O O(n log(n)).

If you don't want to use a built-in sort function and you're going to implement your own sort function, there's a large list of sorting algorithms to choose from.  Factors to consider in choosing a sort algorithm include:

  • Speed of the algorithm for the best, average and worst sort times. Most algorithms have sort times characterized by Big O functions of O(n), O(n log(n)) or O(n^2).
  • The relative importance of the best, average and worst sort times for the sort application.
  • Memory required to perform the sort.
  • Type of data to be sorted (e.g., numbers, strings, documents).
  • The size of the data set to be sorted.
  • The need for sort stability (preserving the original order of duplicate items).
  • Distribution and uniformity of values to be sorted.
  • Complexity of the sort algorithm.

For a comparison of sorting algorithms based on these and other values see:

Here's a quick reference for the major algorithms:

  • Exchange Sorts: based on swapping items
    • Bubble sort: for each pair of indices, swap the items if out of order, loop for items and list.
    • Cocktail sort: variation of bubble sort, passes alternately from top to bottom and bottom to top.
    • Comb sort: variation of bubble sort, selective swap of values
    • Gnome sort: also called the stupd sort, moves values back to just above a value less than it
    • Odd-even sort: developed originally for use with parallel processors, examines odd-even pairs and orders them, alternates pairs until list is ordered
    • Quicksort: divide list into two, with all items on the first list coming before all items on the second list.; then sort the two lists. Repeat. Often the method of choice. One of the fastest sort algorithms
  • Hybrid Sorts: mixture of sort techniques
    • Flashsort: Used on data sets with a known distribution, estimates used for where an element should be placed
    • Introsort: begin with quicksort and switch to heapsort when the recursion depth exceeds a certain level
    • Timsort: adaptative algorithm derived from merge sort and insertion sort. 
  • Insertion sorts: builds the final sorted array one item at a time
    • Insertion sort: determine where the current item belongs in the list of sorted ones, and insert it there
    • Library sort: like library shelves, space is created for new entries within groups such as first letters, space is removed at end of sort
    • Patience sorting: based on the solitaire card game, uses piles of "cards"
    • Shell sort: an attempt to improve insertion sort
    • Tree sort (binary tree sort): build binary tree, then traverse it to create sorted list
    • Cycle sort: in-place with theoretically optimal number of writes
  • Merge sortstakes advantage of the ease of merging already sorted lists into a new sorted list
    • Merge sort: sort the first and second half of the list separately, then merge the sorted lists
    • Strand sort: repeatedly pulls sorted sublists out of the list to be sorted and merges them with the result array
  • Non-comparison sorts
    • Bead sort: can only be used on positive integers, performed using mechanics like beads on an abacus
    • Bucket sort: works by partitioning an array into a number of buckets, each bucket is then sorted individually using the best technique, the buckets are then merged
    • Burstsort: used for sorting strings, employs growable arrays
    • Counting sort: sorts a collection of objects according to keys that are small integers
    • Pigeonhole sort: suitable for sorting lists of elements where the number of elements and number of possible key values are approximately the same, uses auxiliary arrays for grouping values
    • Postman sort: variant of Bucket sort which takes advantage of hierarchical structure
    • Radix sort: sorts strings letter by letter
  • Selection sorts: in place comparison sorts
    • Heapsort: convert the list into a heap, keep removing the largest element from the heap and adding it to the end of the list
    • Selection sort: pick the smallest of the remaining elements, add it to the end of the sorted list
    • Smoothsort
  • Other
  • Unknown class


Android Release and Device Support Summary

Below is a summary of Android releases and device support.  It shows that by using the  Android Support Libraries you can code your apps to run on a large percentage of Android devices.

For more information on the compatibility Support Libraries see: 

For more information on Device Support see:

Android WebView Combines Native and HTML5 Code

A battle is raging over whether native mobile code apps, such as those for Android and iOS, are a better approach than using HTML5.  Each has its advantages.

There is, though, a way to blend the two in order to take advantages of the benefits each has to offer.  The graphic below shows the anatomy of an app that displays an HTML5 Canvas on an Android screen display.

This app is from the Learning Android App Programming video training course.

The HTML5 Canvas animation displayed is from HTML5 Canvas for Dummies.

You can see the HTML5 Canvas animation by clicking here. To see the JavaScript code that generates the animation, right click on the display page and select View Source Code.

Android Bound Services Using Inter Process Communications

Android Service components can be implemented using a number of mechanisms.  If you want your Service to be able to communicate with other applications running in separate processes, using Inter Process Communications (IPC) is one approach.

The diagram below shows the major classes and methods needed in the binding activity and bound service.  The details of this implementation can be found on the Android Developers Web site here on the Bound Services page

In summary, the major classes involved are:

  • Service - Application component for longer-running operations that do not interface directly with the user.
  • ServiceConnection - Interface for monitoring a service.
  • Messenger - Creates a Messenger pointing to a Handler in one process, and handing that Messenger to another process.
  • Message - Description and arbitrary data object that can be sent to a Handler.
  • IBinder - Interface for a remotable object.
  • Handler - allows you to send and process Message and Runnable objects associated with a thread's MessageQueue.

Android/PHP/JQuery RESTful JSON MySQL Client-Server Overview

The title of this blog entry is quite a mouthful.  The purpose is to give a broad overview of the moving parts necessary to implement an application with client mobile and desktop devices that interact with a server database to alter and retrieve data.

I won't define all the classes, methods and acronyms on the graphic as they're easy to look up using an Internet search.  There are other choices that can be made for the details of the implementation, but this should provide a starting point for thinking through the necessary elements.

The communication vehicle for client-server interaction is typically the Internet Protocol Suite.


Android Broadcast Receivers

Broadcast Receivers are one of the four basic Android components, along with Activities, Services and Content Providers.  Broadcast Receivers respond to Intents issued by the Android system or Android apps.  It's one way to respond to "things happening" on the user device.

The video below from the training course Learning Android App Programming explains the basics of Broadcast Receivers.

SQL Database Join Operations

It can be challenging to remember the details of all the SQL Join operations.  A convenient way to do this is to use Venn diagrams shown below. For examples of SQL Joins, go here

Commonly used SQL Join operations are:

  • inner join: requires each record in the two joined tables to have matching records.
  • outer join: does not require each record in the two joined tables to have a matching record.

Android Button Listener Code Dissected

Android listeners are the mechanism used to respond to user interaction with a display screen.  Setting up a listener is a very common Android coding task.  Although it can be done with just a few lines of code, it involves a number of elements that must be configured to interact correctly.

The diagram below from the video training course Learning Android App Programming dissects the code to establish a listener for a screen button.