Running mobile apps on an application server

From the mobile device, programs can be started remotely on an application server, and displayed on the device.

Purpose of remote application execution for mobile devices

Remote applications displayed on a mobile device allow the use of the processor, memory, storage and software resources available on a server, for mobile users.
Note: Executing remote/server applications for display on a mobile device requires a reliable and constant network connection. If the network connection fails, the application will stop, as with other client/server Genero front-ends.

Server applications can only be started through the Genero Application Server (GAS), by using the UA protocol available since version 3.00. You must set up and configure the GAS for the programs you want to start remotely. See the GAS documentation for more details.

Note: Applications executed on the GAS server must use the UTF-8 encoding. Mobile front-ends will reject any attempt to display forms of an application using an encoding other than UTF-8.

Implementing the embedded mobile app

Create a small application to be deployed on the mobile device, which then starts the application(s) on an GAS server.

The server application is started from the embedded application through the runOnServer front call. The embedded mobile application can be a very simple MAIN / END MAIN program, only performing the "runOnServer" front call.

For example, this is the very minimum embedded application, starting a program on the GAS:
MAIN
    CALL ui.interface.frontcall("mobile","runOnServer",
                                ["http://myappserver:6394/ua/r/myapp"],[])
END MAIN

When the remote application starts, the graphical user interface displays on the mobile device.

The runOnServer front call returns when the called application ends, control goes back to the initial application executing on the mobile device.

Note: In development context, it is possible to execute the parent starter app on a server, display on a mobile device with FGLSERVER set properly, and use the runOnServer front call. Because starting remote GAS applications is done with a front call, this configuration mimics an embedded starter app running on the device.

Using the runOnServer front call

The application executed on the server-side is identified by the first parameter of the runOnServer front call. This application must be delivered by the Genero Application Server. The parameter must contain an "ua/r" URL syntax (the UA protocol introduced with the GAS 3.00).

For example: http://myappserver:6394/ua/r/myapp

The URL may contain a query string, with parameters for the application to be executed by the GAS.

If needed, you can add a second argument to define a timeout as a number of seconds. The embedded application will wait for the remote application to start, until the timeout expired. If no timeout parameter is specified, or when zero is passed, the timeout is infinite.

In case of failure (application not found, timeout expired), the front call raises the runtime error -6333 and the HTTP status code of the request can be found in the error message details. Use a TRY/CATCH block to check if the execution the server application was successful:
MAIN
  TRY
    CALL ui.interface.frontcall("mobile","runOnServer",
         ["http://myappserver:6394/ua/r/myapp"],[])
  CATCH
    ERROR err_get(status)
  END TRY
END MAIN

Subsequent server-side application runs are allowed; the last active application will display on the device. However, it is not possible to navigate between started applications. Therefore, an application started with the runOnServer front call must only use the RUN instruction to start sub-programs. RUN WITHOUT WAITING is not supported.

Passing parameters to the server application

If needed, the embedded app can pass arguments to the server application by using parameter specification in the URL string, with the ?Arg=value1&Arg=value1&... notation:
DEFINE params, base, complete_url STRING
LET params = "Arg=verbose&Arg=5677"
LET url = "http://myappserver:6394/ua/r/myapp"
LET complete_url = base || "?" || params

The remote program can retrieve the parameters with the arg_val() built-in function.

Note: It is not needed to URL-encode the string passed to the runOnServer front call.

See the GAS documentation (AllowUrlParameters attribute) about passing parameters in the application URL.

This is an example of an embedded application to be deployed on the mobile device, which passes parameters to a server-side application:
IMPORT util

MAIN
    DEFINE arr DYNAMIC ARRAY OF STRING, x INT
    MENU "test"
        COMMAND "runOnServer"
           CALL arr.clear()
           LET arr[1] = "first argument"
           LET arr[2] = "second argument"
           LET x = do_run("http://10.0.40.29:6394/ua/r/test1", 10, arr)
        COMMAND "exit"
           EXIT MENU
    END MENU
END MAIN

FUNCTION do_run(url,timeout,params)
  DEFINE url STRING,
         timeout SMALLINT,
         params DYNAMIC ARRAY OF STRING
  DEFINE i, r INTEGER, tmp STRING
  LET r = 0
  LET tmp = url
  FOR i=1 TO params.getLength()
      LET tmp = tmp || IIF(i==1,"?","&") || "Arg=" || params[i]
  END FOR
  TRY
    CALL ui.interface.frontcall("mobile","runOnServer",[tmp,timeout],[])
  CATCH
    ERROR err_get(status)
    LET r = -1
  END TRY
  RETURN r
END FUNCTION
A sample server-side application:
MAIN
    MENU "Prog1"
        COMMAND "arg1" MESSAGE "Arg 1 = ", arg_val(1)
        COMMAND "arg2" MESSAGE "Arg 2 = ", arg_val(2)
        COMMAND "arg3" MESSAGE "Arg 3 = ", arg_val(3)
        COMMAND "Quit" EXIT MENU
    END MENU
END MAIN

Sharing files between embedded and server app

If files need to be shared between the embedded application and the server application, the application running on the GAS can only access the data-directory directory, in the sandbox of the embedded application that executes the "runOnServer" front call.

This matters when using file handling APIs such as fgl_putfile() and fgl_getfile() or front calls like takePhoto and launchURL.

The data-directory on the mobile device can be found with the feInfo/dataDirectory front call. In both the embedded app and the app running on the server, this front call will return the same directory.

The following workflow can be used:
  1. Before starting the server application with a runOnServer front call, the embedded app must copy files to the data-directory.
  2. While executing, the server application can retrieve files from the data-directory with fgl_getfile(), and send its own files to the data-directory, with fgl_putfile().
  3. When the server application terminates, the embedded app can read files the server application left in the data-directory.
Note: If several remote applications are started successively on the server with a RUN instruction, make sure to not overwrite files written by other server programs.

In order to write code for the embedded app, that can be executed in development mode (running on a server) and on the mobile device, you can adapt to the execution context: Make a simple file copy when executing on the mobile device, or do an fgl_putfile() call, when running on the development server. Check the execution context with the base.Application.isMobile() method.

This example, in the embedded app on the mobile device, copies a file from the device private directory to the data-directory:
IMPORT os
...
    CALL mobile_copy_to_data_dir("myfile.txt")
...
FUNCTION mobile_copy_to_data_dir(fn)
    DEFINE fn, dd, dst STRING, r INT
    CALL ui.interface.frontcall("standard","feInfo",["dataDirectory"],[dd])
    -- Always use / as path sep for Android/iOS dirs.
    LET dst = dd || "/" || os.Path.basename(fn)
    IF base.Application.isMobile() THEN
       -- Executing on device: make a simple copy to data-dir
       LET r = os.Path.copy(fn, dst)
       MESSAGE SFMT("COPY status = %1", r)
    ELSE
       -- Executing on dev server: make a file transfer to data-dir
       CALL fgl_putfile(fn, dst)
    END IF
END FUNCTION
Note: We do not use the os.Path.join() method here because it would add the path separator for the operating system where the application is executed. This would not be a problem when executing on the mobile device or Unix-like platforms. However, when running on a Windows® platform, the os.Path.join() method would join the directory and the file name with a backslash, and the resulting path would not fit Android™ or iOS directory path specification for the data-directory.
In the server application, use the fgl_getfile() function, to transfer a file from the mobile device data-directory to the local server disk:
IMPORT os
...
  CALL server_get_from_data_dir("myfile.txt", "/tmp/server_file.txt")
...
FUNCTION server_get_from_data_dir(fn, dst)
    DEFINE fn, dst, dd, src STRING
    CALL ui.interface.frontcall("standard","feInfo",["dataDirectory"],[dd])
    -- Use / as path sep for Android/iOS dirs!
    LET src = dd || "/" || fn
    CALL fgl_getfile(src, dst)
END FUNCTION
Similarly, in the server application, use the fgl_putfile() function, to copy a file from the server application to the data-directory of the embedded app:
IMPORT os
...
  CALL server_put_to_data_dir("/tmp/server_file.txt", "myfile.txt")
...
FUNCTION server_put_to_data_dir(src, fn)
    DEFINE src, fn, dd, dst STRING
    CALL ui.interface.frontcall("standard","feInfo",["dataDirectory"],[dd])
    -- Use / as path sep for Android/iOS dirs!
    LET dst = dd || "/" || fn
    CALL fgl_putfile(src, dst)
END FUNCTION