You don’t need it, but you might want it any way: Ubiquiti Unifi

TL;DR;

The Ubiquiti Networks UniFi products are absolutely worth considering if you’re looking to upgrade your home or small office network to a reasonably affordable, manageable, configurable, and expandable setup.

A complete setup probably costs more than you’re comfortable spending on network infrastructure, but you’re worth it.

Details

There’s a lot of information available generally about this company and their products available on the Internet. I won’t attempt to do a 15-25 page Ars Technica style expose on the details. Instead, I’ll focus on the features that I’ve been using and the some highs and lows of the product experience.

Lesson 1

Cloud keyI made the mistake of installing the controller software on a laptop first. I hadn’t understood that for maximal data logging and the best management experience, it’s best if it’s installed on a server or workstation that is available 24×7. I decided the ideal option is the Ubiquiti Cloud Key was the most effective choice. Low power, no moving parts, plug and play. The cloud software uses a bunch of software like Java that you may not want to install on your server or shared workstation, so take my advice and include one in your budget for a robust Ubiquiti setup. There are instructions available for installation on a Raspberry Pi if you’re so inclined to go it on your own tiny hardware.

I will say that I’ve needed to reboot the device/software a few times over the past few months, but it’s been generally very stable. I’m not sure what caused the issue. So, make sure you don’t tuck this away so far you can’t unplug and restart it if necessary.

Devices

I live in a larger house and when we built it I had 4 ethernet jacks installed in nearly every room. Rather than try to determine which jacks had equipment installed, I’ve always had every jack wired for ethernet to a series of network switches. So, for the Ubiquiti equipment, I bought 3 Ubiquiti US-24 managed switches. These switches don’t support power over ethernet, so if you’re considering it, you’ll need to upgrade to the more expensive US-24 250W.  Not wanting to connect the switches with a boring Ethernet cable, I opted for several sets of the fiber connections, the Ubiquiti Networks UF-MM-1G. Compared to the overall setup price, these and the corresponding fiber cable is inexpensive. By using the fiber connection, none of the ethernet ports were used as interconnects.

Patch Cables

SlimRun

I took it as an opportunity to recable the patch panel connection terminals as well with what is now my favorite network cable, the Monoprice SlimRun Ethernet 6A patch cable. As my new setup was about double the length from where I’d mounted two network switches in the past, new cables were necessary. I bought a few different colors to indicate types of connections …, but the result was so pleasing…, just a nice manageable bundle of cables. It felt almost organized vs. a cabling nightmare. These cables are more expensive and the boot is 50-100% longer than typical patch cables. So, be sure that you have room to accommodate them, especially if you’re using a patch panel. My patch panel with these cables isn’t a perfect fit, but I made it work.

I picked colors based on cable prices. There’s a variety of colors and it seems if you buy them on Amazon that they vary quite a lot in price depending on the color and length combination. Blue and a gray were the least expensive when I purchased. I bought some orange to indicate “interconnects” (between managed switches) and “red” to indicate a power over Ethernet style connection or other critical infrastructure.

Software Defined Networking

I’ve explored quite a few networking switches, routers, firewalls, SOHO devices, custom firmware, including consumer, prosumer, and professional models over the years. There have been a lot of highs and lows. I used various open source routers for many years with a “Tomato” based firmware replacement (on various pieces of hardware). While it was generally very stable and had a number of useful features, it wasn’t fun anymore (and new features useful to me weren’t being added). I wanted to try something new.

My first attempt was Google’s OnHub and later I added a more complete Google’s Wifi setup. Admittedly, I bought in too early. The Google Wifi was missing a lot of features from the Tomato firmware (and other competitive products). But, over a period of 18 months, it reached a reasonable feature parity (and exceeded in several cases). Most of the functionality was easy to use. I liked the setup well enough that I bought one for my father’s house so I can help him when he’s having trouble. It’s been rock solid for 9+ months for him with no unplanned reboots needed. If you read reviews of Google Wifi, make sure the reviews are recent, as there was a lot of people that bought it too early, and then complained LOUDLY when they realized that it didn’t have the features they wanted (even though Google hadn’t mentioned them in marketing literature — there was just an expectation that it would have an identical or better feature set).

My biggest issue was that I have a number of Internet of Things devices that just wouldn’t work with the Google Wifi. Several of the devices in my house still require 2.4Ghz connections and couldn’t successfully negotiate with Google Wifi. So, I had to strategically place a few older 2.4Ghz routers around my house to provide service to the older devices. Honestly, it was workable, but sucked from a configuration and reliability perspective. I’m sure I didn’t have the frequencies adequately arranged and there were likely constant conflicts.

Ultimately, I decided that I wanted a setup that would allow me to have more control over my network without needing multiple Wifi access points around to service both new and old devices. I also really wanted a web based portal for configuration. Google Wifi is only through an Android or iPhone app (there isn’t even an app that takes advantage of an iPad’s larger screen — it’s simply a scaled iPhone app).

In the prosumer price point, Ubiquiti hardware seems to lead the pack. They have lines for consumer as well, but I wanted the middle ground option.

Their Software

Given that their solution is built to provide a software defined networking stack, I’ll walk you through a bit of the experience from my perspective.

Firstly, I mentioned I had some experience with a number of hardware and firmware options. The easiest to use overall was Google Wifi. The hardest is a race to the bottom, many of the options blur together in my memory to form a perfectly awful experience. Ubiquiti can never be as simple to use as Google Wifi — they just are not in the same markets nor are the features comparable. That being said, I’m remarkably competent using the Ubiquiti Cloud Controller software. Thankfully Ubiquiti has seriously good documentation for many real world scenarios that you might want to use. Some of the documentation is a bit out of date, but the core is generally still accurate and gets the job done.

For example, it took about 10 minutes to setup a robust L2TP/IPSec VPN service so that I could connect from my devices back to my home network. It’s great as it’s supported on iOS and Windows 10 out of the box.

I’d never had a virtual LAN setup in a useful way in our house before. I’d tried, but it was always very limited and only functioned with a select group of Wifi connected devices. Now I can configure VLANs both for physical connections and for wifi connections. For example, in the photo above, there’s a red cable on the right side that connects to a PoE (externally powered) security camera (I use red to indicate it’s a special connection). I’d read enough scary things about cheaper IP based security cameras that I decided to sandbox it entirely. My security camera software can access it directly, but the camera can’t access other devices on the network.

Distrusted IOT VLAN

There are actually two reasonable ways of putting in a VLAN. As a device, or via a specific port. As shown above, I’ve chosen to associate the device with the Distrusted IOT VLAN explicitly. Otherwise, I could have selected a port and placed it in the desired profile (again, the Distrusted IOT profile as shown below).Ports Port Profile

Configuration of a Virtual LAN

As with many things in the Ubiquiti Cloud Controller software, it’s only a few straightforward steps. Below, I’ve added a Network called Distrusted IOT and assigned it the VLAN identifier of 100.

On the settings page for the new VLAN, I’ve specified the ID (100), I gave it a custom gateway/subnet (for example, you could use 192.168.100.1/24), provided a custom domain name, DHCP Server and a DHCP range. To prevent rogue DHCP servers, I’ve also enabled DHCP guarding. As I wanted to lock this one down, I’ve disabled UPnP LAN support. I’ve found that some devices need IGMP snooping to work correctly, so I did enable it. It’s up to you.


Configuration of VLANFinally, I added a Firewall WAN Traffic rule (Settings > Routing & Firewall > Firewall > WAN OUT). Click [+ CREATE NEW RULE]

Firewall WLAN

Then:

  • name it (like Block All IOT WAN TRAFFIC)
  • enable it
  • select that it runs Before predefined rrules
  • Action: Drop
  • IPv4 Protocol: All
  • Advanced
    • Enable Logging (optional)
    • IPSec: Don’t match
  • Source:
    • Source Type: Network
    • Pick the VLAN you created earlier (like Distrusted IOT)
  • Destination
    • Address Port/Group
      • Group: Any
      • Port: Any

Now, the security camera is isolated on it’s own distrusted network, but my security camera software can still access it by IP address. Beautiful. I have the POWER! (Use your imagination to picture He-man right now!).

Insights

As a resident of rural Wisconsin, I find the insight functionality of “neighboring access points” far more fascinating than I probably should. Seriously. The nearest neighbor is 300 foot (100m) away and the nearest secondary road is about 1200 foot (365m). I presume some of these are phones and cars — but the fact that Ubiquiti catches these and logs these is tremendously interesting.

Neighboring Access Points

Static IP

It’s thankfully easy to configure fixed IP addresses. Select Clients, click on the device you want to configure, select the Configuration tab, click “Use fixed IP address” and then type in the IP Address.

Static-ip

Upgrading

Upgrading a Ubiquiti device is stupidly simple.

When logging in, you’ll see a notice that one more more devices has firmware updates available. After navigating to the Devices tab, you’ll see the word UPGRADE next to any of the devices that has an upgrade available. Click upgrade and a confirmation shows (by default) and a second click later, the process begins. Minor updates take a few minutes at most.

Of course, there’s a little downtime when the device reboots, so plan accordingly. I applaud the developers for making this so painless. I don’t need to find a SUPPORT link and DOWNLOAD link on their web site, carefully match hardware revisions, find the correct update given the devices current patch level, download a binary gzipped file and use a crappy uploader to install the firmware. It’s one or two clicks.

Dashboard

The dashboard looks great. I don’t find it very useful though. It’s not “real time” enough to satisfy my needs. In particular, I’d like real-time throughput of download and upload. There are a LOT of folks that bought the hardware expecting the functionality. I however, had done sufficient research to know it didn’t exist. So, my expectations were set properly. Their forums mention it a lot, but it hasn’t gotten traction. Don’t hold your breath until it shows up.

dashboard

Missing Features

Here are some things I’d like to see added:

  • A better live view of what devices are using an unfair share of Internet. I mentioned this already, but there’s not a way to at a glance see all known clients and their current usage. In fact, there’s not a way to reliably do it all. The Edge Router series apparently has it, but it won’t integrate with the controller, so you may not want that combination.
  • A way to shape traffic live, and demote or promote specific devices for a length of time (or maybe indefinitely)
  • A method to limit a class/network of devices to a maximum total amount of bandwidth (for example, all IoT devices limited to .25Mb of upload traffic). You can limit a class of devices to each have a specific bandwidth cap, but it’s applied individually rather than as a group.
  • A few wizards for common workflows.
  • The setup and configuration for the UniFi Security Gateway feels out of place — while it’s part of the overall system, it requires love and attention on its own, which is confusing at first, and later, and later….

Final Thoughts

Even though the product has a few warts and missing features, I’m generally very happy with the hardware and software. Like many things reviewed, not everyone’s experience has been like mine, but of course, many people with successful installations don’t bother talking about it. It’s the people with problems that are often loud. So, make sure you temper what you may read in forums with a healthy dose of reality. The product does work and can work very successfully if you properly manage expectations and use it in the manner in which it was designed.

As of the end of July 2018, I’d recommend their products.

If you’ve found this helpful and are ready to make a purchase, you may of course buy the hardware from various parties on Amazon. As few (if any) are authorized resellers, you may want to opt for one of the few authorized resellers: B&H Photo and Video. As the links are affiliate links and don’t add anything to the cost/price of the purchase, I’d certainly appreciate it if you used them.

Thanks for reading! I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, ask away! :)

Ubiquiti UniFi WiFi and Haiku Big A** Fans Wall Controllers

If you’ve purchased either a UniFi access point or a Haiku/Big A** Fan recently, you may encounter a problem with wall controllers failing to control the associated fan. While the setup nearly works, the final verification step for the wall controller always fails from the app. Further, and confusingly, if you look at the clients list in the Ubiquiti controller, it’s very likely that you’ll see the wall controller listed with a valid IP address. However, that’s not enough to make everything work as expected.

There are two settings that seem to enable the wall controller to work properly. I discovered these after reading an article about setting up a Google Home/Chromecast. You don’t necessarily need to setup a new SSID and VLAN for your wall controller. That’s up to you. However, you will need to enable IGMP Snooping and MulticastDNS for the Wifi that the wall controller and the fan use.

IGMP Snooping / multicast enhancement is found here: Settings > Wireless Networks> WIRELESS NETWORK [EDIT] > Advanced Options and at the end, Enable multicast enhancement (IGMPv3).Edit Wifi Settings to Enable ICMP

Next, enable multicast DNS: Settings > Services > MDNS > [ON]

Enable Multicast DNS

As soon as I enabled these, the two wall controllers we have for two Haiku fans began to operate nearly immediately.

 

 

Visual Studio 2017 Anaconda Prompt Fix

For some reason, if you install the Python Tools for Visual Studio 2017, you’ll end up with an Anaconda command prompt that won’t work. It apparently is due to a path length limitation where the total target path exceeds some ridiculously small number in Windows for a shortcut.

Thankfully, the fix isn’t painful — it’s just frustrating that it needs to be done.

I’ve seen suggestions to use the old-school DOS 8.3 file paths, but I prefer to use something that still reads well and maps to other dev command line tools on my workstation.

I created a directory junction in an existing folder C:\Dev:

mklink /d c:\Dev\Anaconda3_64 "c:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\Shared\Anaconda3_64"

Specifically, I created:

C:\Dev\Anaconda3_64

which is a junction to:

c:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\Shared\Anaconda3_64

You can use any junction directory you want, but remember that it can’t be too long, or you’ll have the same problem with a different name/path. :) When using mklink, be sure to quote the path for the Anaconda install in the Visual Studio directory as shown above in the mklink example.

Next, I updated the command prompt with the new path:

c:\Dev\Anaconda3_64\pythonw.exe C:\Dev\Anaconda3_64\cwp.py C:\Dev\Anaconda3_64 %windir%\system32\cmd.exe /k c:\Dev\Anaconda3_64\Scripts\activate.bat c:\Dev\Anaconda3_64

Of course, you’ll need to substitute the path you used (just copy and paste into Notepad and do a quick search and replace with the full path I used).

It should start up without issue now.

Flutter Demo application linking to BoardGameGeek.Com’s Hot Game List

I’ve built a slightly more interesting application using Flutter.  Using an XML feed from BoardGameGeek’s API, the application displays a list of the current hot games complete with thumbnail images.

Android Screen

Here‘s the code. I used a standard Flutter app template and also added a few packages to the project.

I’ve coded a substantial amount of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Silverlight code over the years. One of the concerns that often came up was the UI tree …, the more complex it was, the slower the app often was without lots of tricks. Using the new inspector for Flutter apps, I selected one of the images in the UI. Needless to say, there are a few objects created to represent the UI tree. In fact, I had trouble capturing the image for this blog post. :)


Flutter Nesting

I don’t have evidence that this generally will be a performance problem. Maybe with relatively simple mobile applications, a deep rich object based UI hierarchy won’t affect performance as much as it might in a desktop application of reasonable complexity. Regardless, it’s worth considering as you build a UI.

Back to what I built. When a user taps on a board game in the list, I’ve wired the code to call the _showGameItem below. I appreciate that there’s an easy way to navigate to a new page on the stack and show a UI, all within a single function. Of course, I could have split it into multiple builder functions if needed.

To register an event callback for the onTap, I’d tried finding a Widget that exposed it directly. I’m accustomed to elements having events (often bubbling events) that would have exposed something like onTap. However, with the exception of specialized widgets like Buttons for example, it’s not exposed on most Widgets (even those that have UI). So, at the outer layer of the items being shown in the ListView, I used a GestureDetector to capture the tap event:

I would have preferred that the Container to have the event available. Maybe it’s not as pure, but, meh. I’d like to reduce the noise of building a UI and adding yet another layer just to capture an event is a distraction.

Architectural elegance does not always lead to a framework that is easy or friendly.

While I wasn’t really concerned about performance of my application or the possible impact from hitting the BoardGameGeek API a few times, I used application storage to cache a copy of the XML data that’s retrieved from BoardGameGeek just to get some experience with the APIs. Further, I added code to store the next time the file can be updated to the SharedPreferences object instance (to prevent it from being updated too frequently). I liked the simple exception handling in Dart as it’s relatively low impact to handle a specific exception type without caring about the details by using the on clause (just by dropping the catch(e)).

I noticed that the exception handler can specify one or two parameters. The first is always the exception and the second is the stack trace (StackTrace).  I’m not sure why the stack trace isn’t part of the exception object though.

When the file is cached completely and successfully, the Widget state is updated, which triggers an application refresh, which is what happens on lines 29-32.

Had Flutter been an option in the earlier days of Android, it would have been a strong contender in the application building space, especially that it runs on Android and iOS. From reading some of the issues on Github, the general consensus is that the cross-platform Flutter competitor to beat is React Native. In fact, I’m surprised that it has taken Google this long to produce a potentially viable alternative to the Java Android development tools. I’d honestly thought they’d announce something several years ago (I’ve watched Google I/O for many years for the announcement).

If Android devices were upgraded more routinely (as are iOS devices), web technologies such as installed progressive web applications could be a serious contender and alternative for many application types. But, modern Android operating system versions are very slow to roll out (if ever) to the majority of devices.  Over half of Android devices are running Android 6.0 or earlier.

Android Developer Version Distribution

Until the Android OEM ecosystem delivers timely updates to all phones newer than 5 years, solutions like Flutter (and competitors) remain a potentially reasonable way to reach a large variety of devices without needing to update to recent OS releases. However, it may be that the hardware hosting older versions, such as 6.0/Marshmallow and earlier are not capable of adequately executing a modern app built with technology like is used by Flutter.

Continued concerns

I still find the syntax of building a UI to be cumbersome and frustrating for several reasons:

  1. Using code to describe the UI is not effective for me. I can’t as quickly look at a block of code and determine what the UI is likely to be. It’s just too noisy.
  2. I’m constantly frustrated by getting the right number of closing parentheses to match the open parentheses. Using the auto formatting tools of Android Studio for Dart doesn’t make it easier. There are 10 lines that are marking the closing of some block. I’ll add an example below of how messy it starts to look if they’re combined in a way that the auto formatter suggests.
  3. In fact, if it were easy, I’d want to lines to start with the Widget type rather than child: new WidgetName(. But, there’s not an obvious way to format the code that way as the named parameters (child) are needed to provide the widget instance.
  4. Layout is a mess of classes and initialization. The examples on the web site make general sense, but when I’ve tried to innovate on my own and understand how to build other UI patterns, I’ve struggled to find the right combination of Widget classes that represent a desired layout. I imagine that with practice I’d get better, but I also would likely create multiple stateless Widgets to make some of the common patterns I’d expect to use routinely.

Hulk Smash Layout

Does Flutter have a future? Would you want to build an app that you wanted to still be building on 3-4 years from now? As it’s still in Alpha form, I wouldn’t do anything but explore.

Then, there’s Dart. The strength of many development options for mobile and web development is the ability to concentrate on one programming language and have it work on client and server. With Flutter and Dart, if you don’t have a serverless-style architecture in place, you’ll need to use a second programming language. And that may limit its adoption. Of course, developers that work on multiple app platforms today have accepted this is just the price they have to pay, so maybe that’s not a big deal. If you’ve got a development shop that can have developers specialize, then this may be a non-issue entirely. For startups and very small teams, it’s a potential obstacle that must be considered.

 

Notes

If you try the code as I’ve put it on GitHub, you may encounter an error with a codec. This is actually a bug in the Flutter framework and apparently is fixed already and will be available generally at some point in a mainline branch. You’ll just need to rerun it.

Example of Auto Formatting

Note the parentheses on lines 20 and 21. That style causes me to just keep adding closing parentheses until the syntax is correct or the error is different. They’re very difficult to count.

Android Studio

Android Studio is an acquired taste from a theme and style perspective. With a few adjustments, it’s tolerable.

Android Studio Font and Color Settings

I’m not sure why Keywords in the Darcula theme are bright, bolded orange. While keywords are important, they’re unnecessarily vibrant, especially in code blocks describing the UI:

Bright Bold Orange Code Block

I turned off the bold minimally and changed the color of class names as an experiment … it’s better, but not right yet.

Android Studio with custom class name

Flutter.io First Impressions

I’ve been tinkering with Flutter.io for a few days now and wanted to document a few early impressions.

It uses the programming language Dart. I’d looked at a lot of Dart code when it was first announced, but hadn’t looked at it much since. I couldn’t see it gaining meaningful traction against the JavaScript juggernaut as a transpiled option (as it added too much overhead from the complaints I’d read) and there was zero evidence that any company besides Google was considering integrating it as a native option for Web pages. Without broad industry cross-browser support (from desktop to mobile as well), it seemed like a dead-end option that didn’t add measurable value. In some ways it was doomed to fail as it was trying to be a better JavaScript rather than rethinking the whole client development experience. It was just a new web programming language.

Originally, Dart’s messaging was broad and suggested that it was an ideal language for everywhere. That has changed since it’s original announcements to be focused on client development. But, that shift was recent and apparently connected with the announcement of Flutter.

From November 1, 2011:

Dart Language Home Page

 

to late February 2018:

Dart Home Page, 2018-02

Even as recent as May 2017, the Dart team was still considering server development as a potential platform target:

Dart home page, May 2018

It seems logical that the team would pivot to concentrate on a single target platform type, the “client.” Dart hadn’t gained substantial traction in server development or client development. While a recent video I’d watched suggested there were 70 million lines of Dart code on Github, I’m not sure who’s writing all that code and why. The dart-lang repository hosted on GitHub hasn’t seen a lot of “Star” love.

1500 Stars on Github

Compare those numbers to TypeScript for example:
31,301 Stars on Github
Nearly 30,000 more stars (and TypeScript was announced about a year after Dart).

I wouldn’t choose Dart for new development outside of Flutter. My initial impression is disappointment that the Flutter team is using Dart as it adds one more language to the client-side development smörgåsbord. I don’t know that the world needs another programming/UI toolkit lock-in option right now added to the buffet. I like variety and competition, so I’m all for that, but I also worry that limited adoption of frameworks leads to abandonment and frustrated developers. I can speculate why they choose Dart, especially as it’s staffed by Google developers, and I can see the appeal of the language, but….

I don’t need more programming languages right now in my solutions toolbox. It’s one more thing to learn and master. Since Flutter is also new, it has made the initial ramp-up time longer than I’d expected and wanted.  And because the language syntax is very familiar by design, it’s unfortunately likely that habits from other C-like and TypeScript-like will find their way into coding I do in Dart.

While the community at large apparently considers the Widget building syntax to be a strength of Flutter, I can’t say that I’m excited about it. It’s chatty and verbose. (And I haven’t been able to tell if the enthusiasm about the current syntax is just from the early adopters or fans, or it’s generally well liked). It absolutely doesn’t feel like it’s moving the needle when compared to all of the other GUI frameworks that have come before it. In fact, it reminds me of my earliest coding experiences using Turbo Vision. Yeah. Turbo Vision from Borland. (Wow — the past 20 years of IDEs and development tools originally from Borland has undergone an amazing number of ownership changes).

Turbo Vision Programming Guide

(Yes, it’s not really like that too much, but I had some flashbacks to my Turbo Pascal days).

Here’s a snippet of some code, written in Dart which represents a single item (more about this in a later post), with a thumbnail, a name, and a year published.

Of course, alternatives have been proposed, like a JSX-like syntax. This proposal brought out the best and worst of engineers of course. A few of the collaborators on Flutter were so dismissive of the idea I nearly stopped looking at Flutter.  As Flutter is in its early days, and backed by Google, I expect ideas are rationally considered and individuals to be treated with respect, even if there is disagreement. I’ve done years of WPF, Silverlight, and UWP development which used XAML. While there continue to be some rough spots in XAML, I appreciated the structured document for building a UI. I don’t know that I’d go in that direction for Flutter, but I don’t think describing complex user interfaces entirely in code is the best for its future viability, especially as it needs to compete with a variety of other frameworks and options.

Ignoring the syntax of how to describe a UI though for a moment, I’m still having trouble with wrapping my head around the idea that State actually renders a UI:

It’s the build method that returns the object hierarchy that describes the widget tree, not the class that subclasses StatefulWidget.  If you instead use a StatelessWidget, it builds its Widget hierarchy directly within the class. I can see how they arrived at this implementation, but it just feels inconsistent.

I like the async/await support in Dart. I do wish that I wouldn’t need to specifically declare the return type as Future<T>. The code has already signaled that it’s async, so if Future<T> could just be T, some code clutter would be eliminated.

AndroidStudio

The the code above, it’s great that the return value is automatically wrapped in a Future without any special code, but taking it a bit further would make Dart and Flutter more appealing.

I’ve been using TypeScript long enough that let and const functionality is second-nature. Unfortunately, Dart’s language is subtly different and I end up trying to use const where I meant to use finalThat’s my problem of course, but it’s just a gotcha. Const in Dart is for compile-time constants.

I’ve been generally pleased with using Android Studio with the Flutter plugin. It performs reasonably well, and it’s a good editor with lots of bells and whistles. The build/debug times are quite long, even for a basic app. It’s about 25-30 seconds for a build and deploy to an emulator. Thankfully, the plugin and Flutter both support hot reloading, so many changes to the code can be updated without needing to do a new build/deploy. While that’s very helpful, I’d like to see a significantly reduced build and deploy time.

In a market saturated with options for building cross-platform application UIs, it’s not clear how Flutter fits in. I’ve liked the experience enough that I’m going to build out a few simple apps and will show off more details in a later post of an app I’ve been tinkering with as I learn the platform and development environment. Flutter is in an “alpha” state right now, so a lot could change before it’s available in a final release (if it ever is). According to their Github repository, they have currently 86 issues open for their “beta” milestone. There’s no meaningful date associated with the transition though.