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Symbian Accredited Developer Primer: The Jo Stichbury Interview Print E-mail
Written by SymbianOne   
Monday, 09 October 2006
Jo Stichbury will be a familiar name to many Symbian developers, either from her first book "Symbian OS Explained" or from her work in several key companies within the Symbian ecosystem. Richard Bloor caught up with Jo while she was putting the finishing touches to her latest project.

Jo Stichbury is something of a Symbian veteran. She started working for Symbian, or rather Psion, just after the launch of the Psion Series 5, in 1997. For those of you who know your Symbian OS history, the Psion Series 5 was the first device to implement the operating system. At Psion, Jo worked in the Base team for two years before moving on to connectivity and EPOC Connect. Following that, Jo became peripatetic; working first for Advansys, a company specializing in synchronization solutions for GroupWise, in Australia. Then it was back to London and a couple of years working on platform security, before moving to Manchester to work on Sony Ericsson's DRM project. From there, in 2004, Jo moved to Vancouver to work for Nokia where she now provides developer support for N-Gage Platform games developers, as well as creating content for Forum Nokia. During all of this Jo has found time to create a web site dedicated to Symbian OS descriptors and to write two books. She also became an Accredited Symbian Developer last year, and was recently invited to be a Forum Nokia Champion.

Richard: What was the motivation for creating the Symbian Accredited Developer Primer?

Jo: Symbian Press wanted to build on my first book and create a resource that would help developers prepare for the Accredited Symbian Developer exams. I know most developers have found the exams quite hard, not just because of the questions but also because the exam is adaptive, changing the flow of questions to probe a developer's knowledge. We wrote the Primer to prepare developers by providing a checklist of all the things they should understand before attempting the exam.

Richard: If this book builds on your earlier one is it simply an update to cover the technology changes?

Jo: Not really. Obviously some of the subject matter is the same, because both books give developers a fundamental understanding of Symbian C++ development, but the Primer is organized quite differently. It also contains new material, for new technology and aspects of Symbian OS not covered in "Explained"

Richard: So how has the structure changed?

Jo: We, Mark Jacobs of Meme Education and myself, started this project by looking at the exam, the questions asked, and their order. From this we identified a set of learning objectives; the details developers need to know to pass the exam. This list forms the basic structure of the book. Each chapter groups the learning objectives by subject and breaks them into sections that provide in-depth explanations of Symbian C++ and Symbian OS. Our aim is to ensure that the reader comes away with a really good idea of what they are going to be tested on.

Richard: Does the new material simply bring your previous book up to date or have you tried to do more than that?

Jo: One big difference is the section on C++, three chapters in fact. These chapters explain all the C++ concepts a developer needs to understand to pass the exam. Something like twenty percent of the exam is dedicated to questions on how Symbian uses C++. These chapters are not a detailed guide to C++, as we have assumed the reader has good C++ skills already; after all, it's expected that a developer who sits the exam will have two to three years practical Symbian C++ development experience. Such a guide would be a complete book in itself. However, the new C++ section allows developers to determine if they have the right depth of C++ knowledge to take the exam. So if the reader finds a discussion on an aspect of C++ they don't understand well, it is a good indication that they may not be ready to take the exam.

Additionally, there is a new chapter on platform security since the ASD will soon start testing knowledge on that subject. While there is already a Symbian Press book on platform security, my chapter takes a more holistic look at what developers need to do to work with it. I've based it on my experience of the platform security questions I see asked on various developer discussion boards. For example, I address the process a developer should follow to move an application for the emulator to hardware.

Richard: One of the usual preparation techniques for an exam is to answer some questions from earlier exams; do you have many sample questions in the book?

Jo: Mark and I certainly get many hits on our web sites from developers looking for examples, and I hope this book is what they are looking for. Sample questions are provided on the Web, as part of the book's supporting material. In many cases these are actual exam questions, or at least questions that have been in past exam papers. Majinate, the company that administers the exams, has kindly donated a number of deprecated questions; the questions in the exams are constantly updated and refreshed to ensure the exam does not become stale. Where we were unable to find real questions I've created questions in the style of the exam, I'm familiar with the question style as I contributed a number of question to the exam myself. So, through this book, we will be providing developers with a way to test themselves out on sample questions.

Richard: So with you second book under your belt, what do you see as your next project?

Jo: Oh I have lots of plans! While Mark and I were working on Primer, we identified a need for a C++ book that takes a novice developer from scratch through to the standard of a good Symbian C++ programmer. I want to find a way to update Symbian OS Explained too, as the Primer is really a very different book. I'm also quite keen on the idea of writing a book on creating games on Symbian OS or the Next Generation N-Gage Platform. I have yet to approach a publisher about these ideas, but hopefully there will the interest from developers to take them forward.

We also plan a set of pages to support the Primer, such as a discussion forum for people to ask us questions, sample code download area and, inevitably, an errata page! Some smaller projects include updating my descriptor blog, probably by moving it to the Meme Education site. The blog has been a runaway success and could do with a tidy and permanent home. I'm also thinking about doing something similar for platform security, but this could be a large job so I'm contemplating running that as a Wiki and hopefully getting some others to contribute.

The Accredited Symbian Developer Primer: Fundamentals of Symbian OS by Jo Stichbury and Mark Jacobs will be published by Wiley on 17 October 2006. The book is being formally launched at the Smartphone Show, 17/18 October 2006.

Jo's Symbian Descriptors blog can be found at http://descriptors.blogspot.com/ and more information on Meme Education can be found at www.meme-education.com



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