Windows Phone

(Update) Join the WinPhan movement, now with local country groups!

(Update) Join the WinPhan movement, now with local country groups!

WinPhan Global

 [German version below]

(Update: added Facebook pages for local groups in East Africa and Australia)

Do you know the WinPhan movement? No? No worries, I am going to tell you something about it.

Sean (The WinPhan) started the movement sometimes last year. The idea behind the movement is simple. Apple-Fans have their “iFan” movement, Android-Fans have their “DroidFan” movement. There was no similar movement for Windows Phone. Sean initiated the WinPhan movement, which is put together from Windows+Phone+Fan.

Around the globe there are already people that have joined this movement, primarily by adding the hashtag #WinPhan to their tweets.

In the meantime, Mark and I were talking about to create local groups. Sean and some other WinPhans were really  amazed about this idea, so we started over.

Currently there are WinPhan user groups in following countries:

Our goal is to get WinPhans all over the globe connected to each other as well as in their local countries.

Are you a WinPhan? Then join your local group as well as the global WinPhan group!

Spoiler for Germany:

We are curently planning a WinPhan Germany Meetup for early 2013! Be prepared to meet other WinPhans and Windows Phone Developers! We will inform you via our German page/Twitter account  as soon as we have more information to share.

 

[German:]

Schließt euch der WinPhan-Bewegung an!

(Update: Facebook Pages für lokale Gruppen in Afrika und Australien hinzugefügt)

Kennt Ihr die WinPhan-Bewegung? Nein? Kein Grund zur Sorge, nachdem Ihr diesen Post gelesen habt, wisst Ihr mehr!

Sean (The WinPhan) hat die Bewegung im letzten Jahr gestartet. Die Idee dahinter ist relativ einfach. Apple-Fans haben Ihre “iFan”-Bewegung, Android-Fans haben Ihre “DroidFan”-Bewegung. Es gab allerdings nichts vergleichbares für Windows Phone. Und so erfand Sean “WinPhan”, das sich aus Windows+Phone+Fan zusammensetzt.

Rund um den Globus haben sich bereits User der Bewegung angeschlossen, vorranging durch das Hinzufügen des Hashtags #WinPhan zu Ihren Tweets.

In der Zwischenzeit haben Mark und ich uns entschlossen, eine lokale Gruppe zu gründen. Sean und einige andere WinPhans waren begeistert von dieser Idee, und so legten wir los.

Derzeit haben wir WinPhan Gruppen in folgenden Ländern:

Unser Ziel ist es WinPhans auf der ganzen Welt als auch in den einzelnen Ländern miteinander zu vernetzen.

Bist du auch ein WinPhan? Dann schließ Dich Deiner lokalen Gruppe und der globalen WinPhan Gruppe an!

Hinweis für Deutschland:

Wir planen ein WinPhan Germany Treffen für Anfang 2013! Trefft andere WinPhans und Windows Phone Entwickler! Wir werden euch auf unserer deutschen Facebook Page und unserem Twitter Account informieren, sobald wir mehr Informationen für euch haben.

Posted by msicc in Windows Phone, 4 comments

Sean’s Editorial: This Is How I Use “Rooms” For WP


With the release of Windows Phone 8, there are a tremendous number of new features available Many aren’t available for WP7, or are but have inherent limitations. Some are major additions and some are minor changes. The feature that I find myself utilizing more than any other option on my Lumia 920 is the new Rooms feature. If you haven’t had the opportunity to upgrade to WP8 yet, Rooms are similar to Groups for WP7, but with many additional and VERY useful features. My wife and I both have WP8 Lumia 920’s, so I’ve had the chance to use the Rooms feature often and will give you some of my experiences, the positives of Rooms, and some of the needed improvements to this unique feature from Microsoft.

 
Bare with me for a second, this is more of a recap of  Rooms before I better describe how it has become such a vital aspect of my phone and world. First, let’s start off with what the Rooms feature is. Like Groups, Rooms is a collection of contacts from your People Hub that you want to group together for easier and more organized communications with. The 1st big difference between the 2: Groups are people you add into a hub without their permission, making it easier for YOU, the user, to better keep track of up to 25 people and communicate with them via the various integrated services on WP. Unlike a Group though, a Room requires you to be invited to or for you to invite participants in a Room you’ve created. A Room can’t exceed 10 members and you’re limited to participating in no more than 5 Rooms at a time. In addition invites are only sent via SMS, so you need to be in network range to send or accept. Once you’re in a Room, WiFi can then be used as your connection. This was an issue for me personally, as my home is not within my carrier’s network range. I had to wait to get into reception before accepting an invitation and sending an invite for a different Room.
Many of you have read about the features included in Rooms for WP8, so I won’t spend a lot of time detailing what’s already been written. It has a very simple minimalist feel and look to it, but does a great job of capturing the essence of Windows Phone with all the integrated services right at your fingertips and easily accessible. Here’s the short of what a Room consists of:

     

  • Members Screen-live tile of the members of the room/What’s New via social networks/Member Photos/Group email/Settings
  • Messenger-IM with the members in your Room
  • Calendar-Add/View/Edit events
  • Photos-Add/View/Comment on Room members uploaded pics/
  • Notes-Add/View/Edit notes added by Room members

 

So who is this wonderful feature, created by the reinvigorated and innovative team at Microsoft, available to? If you own a WP8, you’re in luck as all the services come stock and work great with your device. What if you own a WP7…or maybe you own a WP8 but know someone with an iPhone that you would like to share this experience with. Well there’s good and bad news. It IS available to  WP7 and iPhone owners, but with limitations. I’m personally in a Room with my wife and in another with other Lumia 920 owners, so I have to be honest…I’m not sure of how well the non WP8’s behave in a Room. This is how Microsoft describes the experience for non WP8 Room members:

If you have a Windows Phone 7 or an iPhone, you can join a room that someone with a Windows Phone 8 creates and invites you to. You’ll be able to set up the room’s shared calendar on your phone and view, create, and edit events on it. Your changes will appear on the other members’ phones and their changes will sync to yours. Other Rooms features work best on Windows Phone 8. Group chat(Messenger) in Rooms is only available on Windows Phone 8. Room members with a Windows Phone 7 or iPhone won’t be able to participate.

 

  

Rather than focusing on the specs, I’m going to spend my time in this piece talking about how I personally use these features on a daily basis, quite perhaps, more than any other aspect of my Lumia 920. As I mentioned before, I’m involved in 2 rooms currently. The Lumia 920 Room is a group of 10 owners of the 920 where we discuss many things 920 related and some other things too. It’s a great way for me to stay connected with other Winphans and feel the WP love! The second Room I’m involved in is one my wife and I made to stay connected in our busy world. I’m going to talk about that first as it garners most of my time and well…I’m using it as I’m writing on my laptop this very second.

 

I’m sure many of you can relate to this description: I am married, we have children, we both work, our kids have busy schedules, somebody wants this, somebody wants that, etc. Well the same holds true for my wife and I. We both have busy schedules and we have children, but don’t want to lose out on what matters most, each other. Our Room has really helped to make us more communicative throughout the day and easier to share the day’s doing even though we’re apart. It’s why we fell in love in the first place, we enjoyed sharing experiences and thoughts together. We are in an era however, where finding time with your loved one or people you care about becomes harder due busier schedules, finances, and other various factors. A Room is really the 1st of its kind. It offers a bit of a social network feel, but in a much more intimate setting and brings some easy ways to connect the important and not so important part of your day to the person or people who are important in your day.

 

Obviously, the most used feature of a Room is the Messenger, or chat. This is a downfall of WP7, the lack of integrated Messenger just doesn’t make sense. Aside from FB chat, KIK, and a couple of others, there is slim pickins’ when it comes to IM and Window Phone. Having Messenger integrated gives another very stable IM choice to people considering a switch and with something as important as messaging, more is better. I spend most of my time near my home and as I mentioned above, my carrier’s network does not reach to it. A simple SMS is out of the question and most SMS apps have unreliable servers making texting a challenge often. My wife however, works in town and is in network range so SMS is fine. However, if my apps server is down then she can’t reach me then we’re back at square one. That has been our experience until having a Room. There are times were are carrier’s network is bad, but Messenger is always reliable. What is great for my wife is that the message shows up in her Messaging Hub just like a SMS or FB chat does. This gives you the option to have a live tile for your Room or not, either way, you’re going to get a notification.

 

An interesting feature to a Room’s Messenger chat is the storage of conversations in your Windows Live email. It’s not always consistent as to what will or won’t show up in your inbox, but some items do appear there. In the long run, if Microsoft straightens that out and has a Room consistently feeding through your email, that’s just one more example of 3 Microsoft’s 3 screens concept. If your WP isn’t near you, you don’t have to miss out on a conversation. Your Messenger also comes with voice to text dictation, which is a great little feature. In addition to the above features, Messenger allows you to check-in with your location and with the tap of the map, other members can look at their Local Scout for where you are.

 

So my wife and I both love to take pics and save pics we see on the internet and then share them with each other. Instead of having to send emails back and forth or sit and wait for the other person to scroll through their various photo albums looking for that one pic they saved, it’s much easier to use the SkyDrive integration and share it directly to our Room’s photo album. You can comment on a pic while viewing it as well, which can lead to long threads of their own aside from Messenger. Because of the SkyDrive integration it’s super easy to upload any image directly to the Room’s album, whenever you share an image you’ll see the Rooms you participate in as an option. You’ll also be notified via your live tile when a member uploads a new image. On a recent trip to L.A., my wife was able to almost stream her day in pics posted to our album. It was wonderful being able to experience things almost in live time as she showed me the world from her eyes. More than that, it was fairly easy for her to keep me up to the moment with how simple and NOT time-consuming it is to share. In addition to viewing pics while in your Room, your shared Room album is stored to SkyDrive allowing you to access those same pics from your laptop, tablet, Xbox, as well as your phone’s Photo hub. Ahem…3 screen concept yet again!

 

When you have busy schedules, that means you have filled up calendars and keeping them all in order can be a mind-boggling and time-consuming task! Your Room comes equipped with its own calendar that has also been integrated with SkyDrive thus adding itself to your existing Windows Live Calendar without you having to do anything. You might think “I’ve already linked my Windows Live Calendar with someone, how is this any different?”. The answer is this: When you add a new appointment/event with your phone’s calendar, you must enter an attendee to share it with and an email is sent with a request to accept or decline…too many steps, too much time, and things that can go wrong. With your Room, when a new item is added, it automatically includes all members and then places it in their calendar. No emails to accidentally end up in bulk or junk and get missed, just set it and that is that! Events from your Room will show up on your Calendar tile on your WP, laptop, or tablet. Yes, I know, 3 screens…I cannot say enough about SkyDrive and the way Windows Phone has integrated it into our devices!

 

The last main feature I’ll talk about is Note. Your Room’s Notes is a shared folder using your WP’s One Note, which has been integrated with SkyDrive allowing for you guessed it, a 3 screen concept! Start a Note or add to it. Christmas is right around the corner and my wife and I haven’t done a lick of shopping for gifts yet! We both are quite busy so it can be hard to both end up at a store looking for Christmas goodies at the same time. No worries, we’re going to sit together and using our Room make a gift Note. We can add or eliminate items later whether we are in the same room or in different areas with SkyDrive. If I buy a gift, just notate it on the Note and my wife can see not to get it. She doesn’t have to stand waiting for me to reply to a text or email if she’s at a store and isn’t sure if I already got it. We’ve all waited for that damn text or message at one point or another, be honest. NO MORE! If she thinks of something for me to pick up while I’m shopping for groceries, BAM…add it to the Note and it’s just that simple! Like Messenger, Note also comes with voice to text dictation.

 

In addition to the features I described above, the members of the Room all appear in one spot as live tiles. The members live tile in a Room are the same as in your People hub, so each member’s live tile shows their social network updates dancing about on their tile and all contact info can be accessed there as well. One of the features that appealed to many of us early adopters of Windows Phone was the Hub concept. It still does to newcomers, not needing so many apps to do simple tasks unlike the device they recently left behind whether it be Android or iPhone. Well Windows Phone has done it again! I’ve seen many apps that attempted to emulate each one of these tasks individually but Microsoft has done a great job at building each service into WP8 and then offering a way to use them all at once without the need of an app.

So I’ve given you all the upsides to a Room. What are the things that could be improved upon? This is a much shorter list. I actually only have 1 legitimate complaint, the rest are things that need just a little tweaking. My major complaint is this: there is no way to mute a Room. If you have an active room, your phone could be alerting you for hours on end as your Room’s Messenger gets lit up by members. Keep in mind, members of a Room can be from all over the world so it’s always Windows Phone time somewhere in the world in my 920 Room. The ability to turn off a Room’s alerts would be great! At this point the only way to turn off chat alerts is by leaving the Room in entirety. Not a good solution.

Aside from that, I would like to see the ability for a Room to do a better job at linking its members social networks together. Because it’s Windows Live, we all share each other Windows Live contact info. What if I want to know someone’s Twitter, their other social networks, or other contact info. There isn’t a quick way to do it in a Room yet. Yes you can share contact info via email, but that’s an added step that usually won’t be taken.

My last thing I can see a bit of an issue with is less to do with a Room and more to do with a carrier’s network. If you have poor network coverage the Room definitely doesn’t function as well. Just because you have enough reception to text doesn’t mean you have a strong enough signal for a Room to operate in “Real Time”, you may notice delays in Messenger and troubles syncing with SkyDrive. When I’m on WiFi I have yet to face any issues however.

When I first heard of Rooms in June, I thought it was cool sounding but had no idea how useful and in the theme of Windows Phone Rooms would really be. In terms of normal non gimmick function and by that I mean function but not a selling ploy like Siri for example, I really think this is the clear choice for top addition to Windows Phone 8. I think it will take a second, but you will hear more and more about Rooms in time to come. There are so many ways to make a Room work for each person, the question is simple…how will you make your Room or Rooms work for you?

To learn more about Rooms for Windows Phone 8 just click here.

 

 

 

 

Posted by TheWinPhan in Microsoft, Windows, Windows Phone, 2 comments
Editorial: Windows Phone 7 is not dead!

Editorial: Windows Phone 7 is not dead!

 

We all know that Windows Phone 8 was launched a few weeks ago. And with that launch, there came up far to much voices that want to tell us that Windows Phone 7 is dead. It is not, and I am going to tell you why.

Microsoft is still providing support for Windows Phone 7. The marketplace recently expanded to 42 new countries, for example. And their blog title was “reach more customers with 7.8”. So you can bet there will be more countries that will get still Windows Phone 7 devices (for example the Lumia 510, which is a very low cost device).

Nokia stated support for current Lumia devices, also beyond Windows Phone 7.8. Nokia is constantly launching new Lumia exclusives, and most of them are able to run on current WP7 devices. The other OEMs did not support Windows Phone 7 in recent months, and this will continue as far as we can say today.

Sure, we, the power users, are waiting for the update to 7.8 and which new features we will get. It is very clear that it will not be a similar update like Windows Phone 8, but there will come some new features to Windows Phone 7 (at least there are some rumors about it).

And there is one thing I really do not understand. We are using Windows Phone 7 for month, some of us even for years. Yeah, there is a new version. And now it is bad? What about the experience we had and still are able to have?

Windows Phone 7 was the ground stone for something epic that happened with Microsoft. And of course Microsoft has to put some evolution magic to it – the results are Windows 8, the new Xbox Dashboard, Windows Phone 8 and of course all the Metro styled web services. But there are still enough users out there that are happy with Windows Phone 7. And I am one of them.

Of course, Windows Phone 8 seems to be pure awesomeness, but I do not have a device with it yet. And the upcoming update to Windows Phone 7.8 is delayed (if we could call it that way) until Q1 of 2013. That does not mean I can’t use my Windows Phone right now, and it also does  not mean I can’t develop apps for Windows Phone right now. In fact, I am doing both right now – and I am happy because it is still the best OS that my smartphone can run. And it still does what it can do better than any other phone OS: put people first.

Posted by msicc in Windows Phone, 3 comments

The WinPhan is joining msicc.net!


Well, I’m back. Some of you know me from Twitter, Facebook, and various WP news blog sites as WinPhan7. For those that don’t know me, nice to meet you. I’ve evolved slightly, I now go by a more encompassing title: The WinPhan, but you can also call me Sean. I’m not a developer, although I am interested in learning the trade. In all honesty, I use a chainsaw in the woods for a living…but MAN, do I love technology! More than that, I admire what Microsoft is doing to innovate technology!

I’m not going to make my first post too long, as you read more of my articles you’ll see I can be long winded on my soapbox. So here’s a little about myself and my love for Microsoft. I’ve never been a fan of Apple, their proprietary malarkey, the way they take advantage of their faithful consumer base, or their iPoop products! I have even more disdain for Google, their horrid mess of a mobile OS, their antics, and their dishonest ways! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Microsoft can walk on water. They’ve made some not so popular decisions, but speaking in terms of the past few years it’s my honest opinion that you would be hard pressed to find ANY company in ANY industry that has matched the innovation and positive movement that Microsoft has. With the release of Windows 8 and all that it encompasses, it’s a work of absolute beauty to me.

I’m married and have 2 out of our 4 kids still living at home so we have many Microsoft products. Currently we have the Xbox360, 9 Windows Phones(2 HTC 7 Pros, 2 HTC Titans, 1 Samsung Focus S, 2 Nokia Lumia 900’s, and 2 Nokia Lumia 920), 3 laptops(Acer Aspire with Windows 7, HP G72 with Windows 7, and my little HP Pavilion g6 is now running Windows 8), and a Zune HD. We even have a couple desktops and a couple Windows Mobile Phones sitting around, suffice to say, we are a Microsoft home.

The Windows Phone experience is what turned it all into a real passion for me though, yes even pre-Mango was a beautiful experience for me. It all just made sense, what it was, what was soon coming, and what needed to be done in the future. Here I sit now able to enjoy my Lumia 920 running WP8 and think a couple years back to the moment when the sales person tried to talk me into an Android as opposed to the little giant HTC 7 Pro. Best tech decision I ever made was right then! I’m blown away by the support Windows Phone offers, I’m blown away at how dedicated our dev community is, and I’m blow away by how unified and interactive our WinPhan community is! Like many of the readers here, I’m proud to have been part of Microsoft’s ground movement from the beginning, I’m a proud WinPhan!

I ‘ve got lots to say but I’ll save that for future posts. I’ll be writing more consistently now that winter nears and I find myself indoors a lot more. Thanks for reading and you can catch me on Twitter: @TheWinPhan

 

 

Posted by TheWinPhan in Microsoft, Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, 7 comments
(Update 3) Fixed: Windows Phone Store is charging again for already paid apps

(Update 3) Fixed: Windows Phone Store is charging again for already paid apps

image

Yesterday I had a very strange problem on my Windows Phone. I uninstalled an app, and wanted to reinstall it as I had problems after the last update with it. The Windows Phone Store did not recognize that I already paid that app.

So I contacted the Windows Phone support team via twitter. As they did not have a solution for me, the referred me to the chat team (click here to get there).

While the chat itself could not resolve my issue, they offered a way to escalate the issue. They ask me to create a list with all apps that are missing from the purchase history on windowsphone.com.

That is the bad part of it. I downloaded more than 1000 apps for testing etc., and my list will be very long because of this.

I told them that I will blog about it, they appreciated it and are begging for the following steps:

– check the purchase history on https://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/my/purchase-history

– create a list of all missing apps (sigh!), include also the price of the apps and please include also apps that you have installed but that are missing from your purchase history!

– contact the chat team and tell them about your problem (it’s 24 hours)

They told me it is a known issue, and that this is the only way to get around it. I am sure if enough of us are sending the list, Microsoft will investigate what is going on over there.

A huge help will be your buying confirmation mails, which is sent to you after every purchase.

I will update this post as soon as I get new information, but for now we all can only create our list and send it to them. I am really sorry for this bad news.

Update: of course I do not want to force you to that steps above. I wanted to describe what is going on there. Stay tuned, as I got confirmation that this is escalated also from another part within Microsoft. So hopefully there will be a solution soon.

Update 2: Microsoft is aware of the issue with our purchased app history.  I had a short discussion with the twitter support team yesterday about how serious Microsoft is about the above written steps.  There is a topic at Microsoft answers forum now, where you can subscribe and click that you are also having this problem. The more people click on the “I had this too” button, the more attention it will get.

Update 3: It seems Microsoft just fixed the issue. Mark tipped me that it should work again and I can confirm. According to wpcentral, the problem was that upcoming updates exploited a bug in the billing system. Microsoft decided it would be better to temporarily switch the history that causes the bug off than let our devices crash. The sad thing about it is the bad communication to us users in this case. Anyway, problem is fixed now.

Posted by msicc in Microsoft, Windows Phone, 2 comments
Meet Steve at Berlin

Meet Steve at Berlin

 

As some of you know, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer himself visited Berlin a few days ago. First I want to apologize for the delay this post has, but sometimes there are things that can push things back. I am still amazed about the fact that I was able to attend this event.

The evening started with a short introduction of the recent Milestones Microsoft achieved, presented by Microsoft Germany CEO Peter Jaeger.  The second part was about to show the integration of cloud services, presented my MS Germany Developer Evangelist Gunter Logemann. He reminds us developers to use the advantages of this integrated services.

At some point Steve Ballmer entered the room, and we all got a bit more nervous (yes, I was only two meters away from him!)

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He was introduced with his own Windows Phone screen ad video, and started with a little joke that he was wondering who was talking while he enters the stage. Great start for his exclusive keynote.

 

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He then switched to do what he is very good at: talking about Microsoft products and the possibilities they offer. He started with some numbers and feedback about Windows 8. In only 14 days, there were more than 4 million upgrades to Windows 8, and the press and blogosphere was positive about Windows 8. He was absolutely charmed about J. Topolsky`s comment: “Who have thought that in 2012 Microsoft would be the company with the boldest phone and software design?”. And of course we all were charmed about that, too.

 

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Then he introduced the ecosystem “Windows” to us. No matter which device, Windows will be the core experience. And this experience is alive with activity – the user’s (our) activity. No matter if you are on your PC, tablet or on your phone or Xbox.

 

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He continues that Microsoft is “All In” with the new Metro design language (well, he called it Windows 8 style, but we all know he wanted to say Metro). All main products where updated to the new design language to make a unique UX across all devices.

 

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Steve is still amazed about how fast and fluid content is synchronized across devices via the Microsoft cloud – even though Microsoft created this whole experience. And every developer is invited to use it to create amazing apps!

 

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Nearly at the end of his speech some developers where honored for Windows 8. Their apps  were created in the Darkside Bakery project and are already available on the Windows Store.

Sadly I did not have to opportunity to talk to himself or at least shake his hand. But it was amazing enough to see and hear him live and in person. Thank you, Microsoft, for this very unique experience I do not want to miss! Steve’s speech was really motivating, and I will go  “All In” with Microsoft. How about you?

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, Microsoft, win8dev, Windows, Windows Phone, wpdev, 4 comments
Windows Phone 8 – the next generation

Windows Phone 8 – the next generation

Today I will write about my impressions on Windows Phone 8, the next generation of Windows Phone. First thing I can tell you: I am really impressed what Microsoft has done here.

This Post will be about my favorite features on Windows Phone 8, if anyone prefers other features, feel free to leave a comment below.

Individual start screen

Of course, the first feature I absolutely love is the new start screen. Every user can now individually change the tile sizes from small to middle to big. This way every device will have another look:

 

Windows Phone 8 start screen

None of the hopefully exploding numbers will look like any other. Best thing: this is one of the features that will come also to existing Windows Phones. I can´t wait to make my start screen look even more individual.

The new lock screen

Screenshot (35)

The Windows Phone 8 lock screen can be taken over by Windows Phone apps. There are several ways they can do it.

  • show images as wallpaper
  • show information from within the app as lock screen (partly/full takeover)
  • show number of new notifications

The photo above shows how the completely rewritten Facebook app for Windows Phone takes over the look screen by showing randomly changed Facebook photos.

I can’t wait to see what my fellow dev colleagues are doing to give us an awesome user experience. For my apps, I am currently investigating what possibilities I have to give you some awesomeness. With my app MSicc´s Blog it will be for sure something related to new posts, so you won’t miss any news from it. For my other apps I am currently searching a helpful way.

 

Benefits for the little one´s and parents: Kids corner

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Joe Belfiore demonstrated kids corner in an really awesome way. He let show his kids this awesome feature. Our kids are often asking us to let them play with our phones. We are of course afraid they could do something that they shouldn’t like sending messages or other things like this. Microsoft has done a fantastic job in adding a separated section for our kids, where we can add apps and games that are safe to use for our little stars. Can´t wait to introduce this to my 6 year old daughter (my son wants his own Windows Phone, so let’s see if he was brave enough in Santa´s eyes).

Xbox Music – finally also in Germany with pass

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As I wrote earlier, Microsoft finally unleashed Xbox Music for Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Xbox. Here are some additional features that are available in Windows Phone 8:

  • seamless syncing of Playlists and Albums
  • Xbox Music streaming via the cloud
  • apps can interact with Xbox Music
  • streaming to Xbox via SmartGlass

I am really happy that Microsoft finally added more countries to the Music Pass. If you haven´t activated your pass, you really should do it right now.

 

There are more awesome features:

  • SkyDrive syncing of photos, office documents
  • DataSmart
  • Voice Commanding of the phone and apps
  • Wallet
  • restructured Windows Phone Store
  • in app purchases
  • Rooms in people hub
  • many ways devs can improve their apps (I will do separate posts about them)
  • and more

I will cover them from my point of view as soon as I get my hands on a Windows Phone 8 device. Which leads me to the launch line up of Windows Phone devices:

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From left to the right we have the Lumia 920, Lumia 820 by Nokia, the Ativ S by Samsung and the 8S as well as the 8X by HTC.

What are your favorite features? Which device are you looking forward to? Leave a comment below.

Posted by msicc in Microsoft, Windows Phone, 6 comments
Dev Story Series (Part 1 of many): Creating a data class for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone app

Dev Story Series (Part 1 of many): Creating a data class for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone app

As I promised earlier on my application for the Intel App Innovation Contest on codeproject.com, I will do a series of blog posts for my application MSicc´s Blog for Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

This is the first article in my new Dev Story Series, where I describe the development process of the app. I am starting with the very first steps that you have to do if you plan such an application. To make the application useful, we first have to decide how we want to get the data from our blog/website into our application.

One hint that will make some of you crying out loud: At the moment I am not using the MVVM pattern. I am aware of the fact that most devs for Silverlight/C# swear on it, but I still decided to go without it – as well on Windows Phone as on Windows 8. I will continue to learn it in one of my future project, but for the moment I just want to get things done – also if that means that I have to create some – well, let us call it “compromises”.

Which way to choose?

If you consider to create a “blog reader”, you have to think about how you want to get the data from your blog into your app. There are different ways:

  • via a RSS/Atom feed (that was in the old version of my Windows Phone app for msicc.net)
  • via XMLRPC (if your blog supports that)
  • via JSON

I decided to go with JSON for the new version. There were several reasons to do so:

  • there is an app err… an plugin for that on WordPress
  • JSON is fast
  • JSON is set to be the new standard for data consumption
  • With JSON.NET you can deserialize your data with only one line(!) of code

How do we get the data in our app?

Of course, we will download it. But if you only download your JSON data, the only thing you will get is a very weird looking string that looks like this:

json_string_unserialized

That´s pretty ugly, right? Of course we could work us through all arrays and objects there. That would take hours and hours until we would have covered all data we need for our apps. Luckily, there are two tools that make the whole thing a lot easier.

Two handy tools to make a dev´s life easier

The first tool I want to show you is “Beautify JSON”. It is a web based tool that makes strings like the one above readable for a human. Find it here.

Just paste the string of your JSON API in there, and you will get a readable version of your JSON string:

beautify_json

If you want to use only some of the data that your API provides, you can now easily search the string for the objects and arrays that you need.

If you quickly want to create a data class for all data that is provided, you can do this by using json2charp.  It provides a ready-to-use code that can easily be copied and pasted into your class file in Visual Studio:

json2charp

Now let´s have a look to the class itself:

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Runtime.Serialization;
using System.Text;
using System.Threading.Tasks;

namespace WordPressDataClass
{
 public class Posts
    {
        [DataMember]
        public string status { get; set; }
        [DataMember]
        public int count { get; set; }
        [DataMember]
        public int count_total { get; set; }
        [DataMember]
        public int pages { get; set; }
        [DataMember]
        public List<Post> posts { get; set; }
    }
}

As you can see, I created a DataContract and DataMember based class by using System.Runtime.Serialization. If you want to know more about DataContracts and DataMembers I recommend you to read MSDN: using Data Contracts.

I am not posting the whole class, only the key DataContract Posts, which will get us our List of posts. You can download the whole class at the end of the post. It will be very helpful if you want to create an app for your WordPress based blog.

I use the class in both my Windows 8 and my Windows Phone app without any differences. As you can see, If you are familiar with Windows Phone Development, there is only a small step to Windows 8 development.

I hope this article is helpful for some of you. In my next post I will show you how easily you can use the provided JSON Data in your app/s.

source code: JsonDataClass

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, win8dev, Windows, Windows Phone, wpdev, 4 comments
Zune/Xbox Music Pass available in Germany (includes a short how-to)

Zune/Xbox Music Pass available in Germany (includes a short how-to)

Yesterday some users reported to wparea.de that the Zune/Xbox Music Pass is available. However, yesterday I was able to activate it, but no usage was possible.

This changed this morning.

Here are is a short view on how to use the Zune/ Xbox Music Pass:

On your Windows Phone:

Just go to the marketplace, search the album you want. You will see the word “Herunterladen” ( German for download) on the album, if it is available to use with the subscription:

 

Screen Capture (41)

Once you clicked that, you only have to wait until the download of the album has finished. If you do not want to download, you can stream the music by clicking on the small “play”-symbol in front of a song, which will start streaming.

On your PC

You will need to use the Zune software. Crazy, isn´t it – it works only with a program that is set to die soon.

Here it is pretty much the same like on your phone, just click on download to listen to an album offline.

 

Screenshot (29)

If you don´t want to download, just double-click on a song in the album you want to hear, that will stream the whole album.

I wasn’t able to use it on the Windows 8 Music app as well as on my Xbox. I will update this article as soon as I got this working.

If you want to activate a 30 day trial of this awesome features, here is the site to activate it.

Of course, it is still an unofficial thing, as Microsoft stated it will become available at Oct, 26th. It works for now, so enjoy everybody of my fellow readers in Germany!

Posted by msicc in Microsoft, Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, 0 comments
Editorial – the relationship between developers and users

Editorial – the relationship between developers and users

I did not plan this post, but as I received an email yesterday from another developer, this changed. This post will be an Editorial about the relationship between developers and users.

Users and developers do have a problem. Users have expectations for our apps. We developers have to fulfill these expectations. Here is an image I found on the web, that describes the situation quite well:

Of course, this is a funny Picture. But in the last few weeks sadly this image turned out to be kind of  true. I talked also to other developers, and they made similar experiences. I will try to explain why feedback is important to us developers.

It all starts with an idea. The idea can come from a friend, a family member or from a situation your life. For my very first app the situation was simply the app I searched was not out there in the marketplace and it is no pleasure to use the mobile web in some situation (e.g. while fishing). For another app a discussion on my primary work was the reason.

If you are an app developer, you now sit down and create a concept. You have to think about a lot of things:

  • which features do I want in my application?
  • do I already know all to get this features into my app?
  • where can I learn about features that I want but do not know how to code them?
  • How does the UI have to look?
  • How much time will it cost to create a first running application?
  • what are the limitations of the OS I am coding for?
  • how can I promote my apps?
  • and certainly a few other things

Until now, we do not have written one line of code, but already spent a few hours if not days only in planning phase. At some point, of course we start coding. The coding and designing process is followed by ups and downs, where you have to reconsider features, sometimes even have to rethink your whole attempt on how to create the app.

I have a very good example for that. Initially I tried to use animated gifs in my app “fishing knots +” . It turned out that Windows Phone does not support this image format natively. So I searched a way to achieve my goal and let Windows Phone learn it within my app. There are some solutions out there, but I was not satisfied with the result. So I started to search for alternatives and found one that suites it very well: a storyboard for each animation. But then I had another problem: For a storyboard animation, you need single images, not a finished gif animation. Luckily one of my co-workers could help me out and created the images for me, so I was able to use it. But it took also some time for him to create the images (12 knots with at least 10 images). I created the basic images, and he did his magic. The result was great.

Now we have a very basic version of our app that runs, and can also be shown to some people. And of course, friends, coworkers and family are your first “customers” that give you some feedback. You should be grateful for the feedback they provide, as it often offers you sights on which you do not think while developing the app. Also if that means you have to rewrite a bunch of your code. They are no developers (in most cases). They are just users. Let them play around with your app (best on a real device!), and do write down every single point they tell you. Feedback is good, and helps you to evolve.

Now that we have done this, our app at some point reaches the state of being submitted to the Marketplace/Store. You should never start with a final version number like 1.0 for that. 1.0 suggests a user that it is a finished product with nearly no error. And they errors will come. I did not see a single app that was without issues on the first release, neither on the following updates. This counts for my apps as well as for apps of other developers. But that is not a bad thing. Once you have published your app, you have the possibility to obtain more feedback. This time from real end users.

To achieve this, you should offer a way to give feedback within your application. Here is my attempt that I have in every of my apps:

 

 

As you can see, I integrated a few ways to obtain feedback. I created a twitter handle, where users can give feedback and follow for actual announcements for my apps. Nowadays a Facebook page is also an advantage, and then users have the ability to send me an email to provide more detailed feedback. And one thing you never should miss: a direct link from your app to the review section of your app in Marketplace.

So from our part, we did all to get some feedback. Now to you, user of our app! We want you to give us some feedback! What we want is feedback that helps us to understand what you expect.

Sadly a lot of users are rating an app with less stars, providing no feedback or only harsh words for the app. A rating for an app was delivered with less than 5 stars because the app is not free. Another one gave me 1 start and as comment: “great”. That is not feedback that can be used to improve the app.

Another example is glƏƏk! for Windows 8. It is an really fast and fantastic twitter app. I use also their Windows Phone version, and I am absolutely happy with it.

The first versions of the Windows 8 app had some problems and was crashing a lot. Users, of course, wrote that into their reviews. But how many of them did give them feedback to improve the app? As I am in contact with the developers, I know that they did not get a lot of feedback to iron out all those issues. Feedback is important to us developers. We need to know in which cases you, the users, have the issues. We have to reproduce the error, but that is nearly impossible without your feedback.

I understand that you give a bad rating to an app if it crashes a lot or if you are constantly facing other problems. And we developers try to iron out every single point you tell us. If you see that the experience has improved, you also should honor the work we do for you and update your rating and review. glƏƏk! had some issues like all other twitter clients on Windows 8, too. In the meantime, glƏƏk! was updated nearly every day to iron out other issues, and finally we have a non crashing version.  But no one updated their reviews and ratings. Sure, some may have uninstalled the app, others are having it  still but do not updated their rating/review. This is frustrating for developers who do not get a lot of feedback via email or other channels but only via the ratings.

Please, do not take this as advice to not rate our apps. We want your ratings. But be fair. If something is wrong with one of our apps, please tell us! But I beg you to understand that we only can work with quality feedback, so please use twitter/Facebook/email, whatever we offer you. Give us as much information as you can, answer to our questions if we have them to you.  And please update your ratings after we have ironed out your issues.

Please not also that we are no aliens. We are humans like you after all. And we are  also users.

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, win8dev, Windows, Windows Phone, wpdev, 0 comments