Review

Review of a geek’s 2014

We are close to the end of this year 2014, time for a little review.

At the beginning of the year, I was mostly busy with working on my UserVoice library that makes it easier for me and other developers to integrate UserVoice into Windows Phone apps. I also launched Voices Admin, the companion app for the library. I will start to rewrite this library in 2015 to make it a true Universal library for Windows, Windows Phone as well as Xamarin (and make it return objects instead of naked JSON strings).

I also had some troubles with my former hoster, which lead to a total domain chaos and finally ended in January, too. Thanks to Azure Websites, the transition should have been without problems.  At Telefónica, I was busy finishing the internal App “Friends & You” for Android and Windows Phone. I learned a lot using Xamarin for the Android version, and even more about corporate rules and requirements. In the beginning of December, I also finished the iOS variant of the app (using Xamarin.Forms) – which is sadly set to be not launched for the moment (mostly because of my departing of Telefónica).

During the year, we also received the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview. It removed the ability to cross post on social networks on Windows Phone. As this was one of my most used features, I decided to solve this problem for myself and started to write my own cross posting solution. As some of my followers recognized this, I continued my efforts to a more public and polished version, the result is UniShare for Windows Phone.

ae4dc8ca-2d86-4e36-bf9b-d7c2985a68b1

Since the first WP8.1 Developer Preview, we also have Cortana. Cortana is an awesome piece of software – if you are willing to use your phone with English and US region settings. I tried the UK version as well as the Italian and German version, but was only satisfied with the US one. I truly hope that the other countries will be on par in 2015.

I also updated my very first app ever (Fishing Knots +) to a Windows Phone 8 only version, leaving the old version for WP7 users. Also my NFC Toolkit received some love (and will receive even more in 2015). On top, I started to work on a Universal library for WordPress, which I will also continue to work on in 2015 to make it even better.

One of my saddest geek moments was when the screen of my Intel developer Ultrabook broke shorty before Christmas. As I need to be able working while on the go, I needed a replacement. I found it in the ASUS TP300L Transformer Flipbook, which is an awesome piece of an Ultrabook. On top, Santa (aka my wife) gifted me an HP Stream 7 tablet, that perfectly fits my needs for a tablet use (reading, surfing, playing some games). And so this part also turned well.

The most significant thing happened in September, when I read about a job as a C# Junior developer in Switzerland. I am truly happy about the fact I got this job (read more on it here), and already learned some new things in WPF. Currently, I am also working on my first WPF application, that is a practicing project for my new job I am going to start next year. Which leads me to the end of this short review.

2014 was a year with ups and downs like every year. I had some trouble in “first world” that we were able to solve as family (and friends), but made some good success in my geek and dev world. I am looking forward to 2015, where I am starting a new chapter in my dev story (with becoming a full time developer). But there are also some nice side projects, like maybe porting some apps to Android as well as the Internet of Things, which I am looking forward to dive in deeper. And of course, like any other MS fan, I am looking forward to the next evolutions of Windows 10!

What are you all looking for? How was your 2014? Feel free to comment below.

158340786

Happy New Year, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, User Stories, 1 comment

Book review: iOS Development with Xamarin Cookbook (Dimitris Tavlikos)

I love to learn and expand my knowledge. Because of this, I was absolutely happy when I was asked for a book review about Dimitris’ iOS book.

The book is a huge collection of iOS recipes using Xamarin. The first three chapters are going deeply into the UI of an iOS application, looking on a lot (almost all) possible aspects of UI elements. What I like very much is that the author shows the code, usually with a step by step guide, and after that delivers a detailed explanation why something works in the way it does.

The next two chapters are all about creating and displaying data, files and sqlite, providing the same experience as the first chapters.

The sixth chapter is all about consuming services, such as web services, REST services or even WCF services (I wasn’t even aware of this being possible). Very good starting point for so many app ideas.

So far, the book shows already a lot of what we can do with Xamarin. But modern apps often contain media content: videos, photos, capturing media – this is what chapter 7 is all about.

Like all modern Smartphone operating systems, iOS provides some methods to let our apps interact with the OS. The 8th chapter is all about those interactions, like contacts, mail and more and has the matching real world scenarios.

The most usable apps use a device’s sensors, touch and gestures. Of course, with Apple being the leader in this space for a long time (we just need to be fair in this point), iOS has a lot of APIs for these. Chapter nine has some good recipes to help us with improving our app’s UX.

If your app needs location services and maps, chapter 10 is your friend. It shows you how to interact with Apple’s map services, add annotations and a lot more.

Users love when apps have some nice animations when something changes in an app. iOS provides a lot of options, and chapter 11 explains a lot about animations and drawing methods.

One of the most important parts when developing an app is lifecycle handling. As with any other OS, also iOS has its specific methods to handle the lifecycle. Background operations are part of this handling. In chapter 12, Dimitri tells us a lot about handling the states of an app as well as background operations.

Chapter 13 consists of tips and recipes for localization of an iOS app.

One of the most important steps when creating an iOS app is deploying the app. Apps should of course be tested on real devices, and this what chapter 14 is about – but not only. Also the required steps to prepare and app for submission as well as the submission to the store are explained.

The final chapter contains some additional recipes that can make your app more valuable like content sharing or text-to-speech.

Conclusion

I only began with Xamarin.iOS a few month ago. This book provides a great insight into development for iOS using the Xamarin IDE. As I said already, I like the approach of showing code first and then explaining what it does exactly and provide additional info if suitable. This book is absolutely worth every single cent if you want to start with iOS and Xamarin.

If you’re interested in the book, you’re just a click away: http://bit.ly/1tnxmGX

Note: This post was completely written on my phone. If you find typos, you can keep them ;-).

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, Xamarin, 0 comments

Book review: Learning Windows Azure Mobile Services for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 (Geoff Webber-Cross)

During the last months, I used the few times of my spare time when I wasn’t in the mood for programming to read Geoff’s latest book for diving deeper into Azure Mobile Services. Geoff is well known in the community for his Azure experience, and I absolutely recommend to follow him! I am really glad he asked me to review his book and need to apologize that it took so long to get this review up.

The book itself is very well structured with a true working XAML based game that utilizes both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 and connects them to one single Mobile Service.

Even if you are completely new to Azure, you will quickly get things done as the whole book is full of step-by-step instructions. Let’s have a quick look on what you will learn while reading this book:

  1. Prepare your Azure account and set up your first Mobile Service
  2. Bring your Mobile Service to life and connect Visual Studio
  3. Securing user’s data
  4. Create your own API endpoints
  5. use Git via the console for remote development
  6. manage Push Notifications for both Windows and Windows Phone apps
  7. use the advantages of the Notification hub
  8. Best practices for app development – some very useful general guilty tips!

I already use a Mobile Service with my Windows Phone App TweeCoMinder. I have already started a Windows 8 version of that app, which basically only needs to be connected to my existing Azure Mobile Service to finish it.

Screenshot (359)

While reading Geoff’s book, I learned how I effectively can achieve this and also improve my code for handling the push notifications on both systems. The book is an absolutely worthy investment if you look into Azure and Mobile Services and has a lot of sample code that can be reused in your own application.

As this is my first book review ever, feel free to leave your feedback in the comments.

You can buy the book right here.

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Azure, Dev Stories, win8dev, wpdev, 0 comments

A year in the like of MSicc – my review of 2013

dev smurf

2013 was a year with a lot of surprises. It was a year full of community work for me as well as a huge learning year in development. But my year had also dark clouds on heaven. This post is my personal review of 2013 – you can like my impressions or not.

I started the year with releasing my first Windows 8 app ever, along with an huge update to my blog reader app for Windows Phone. I wrote several blog posts and started also development of my NFC Toolkit app for Windows Phone (Archive: January). I also ran a beta test for my NFC Toolkit, and finished my series about the parts that should help other developers  to write a blog reader app for both Windows and Windows Phone (Archive February & Archive March).

Then in April, the first time I had dark clouds hanging deeply in my life, affecting all parts – family, community work and also my 9to5 job. My wife had once again problems with her back, caused by slipped discs. It went as far as she needed to rest in hospital for a pain therapy. Luckily this therapy was helping her and our life went back to normality (knocking on wood).

I also started a new series on the WinPhanDev blog – Why we started developing (WWSDEV). We are collecting stories from developers, and posting them over there to motivate other developers and keep the community spirit alive. Just have a look, we have really great stories over there.

In the last days of April/beginning of May, Iljia engaged me to start using Windows Azure Mobile Services to make an app idea reality: TweeCoMinder was born. It is a very special and unique app, interesting for those that don’t want to miss their special counts on Twitter, supported by real push notifications via WAMS for both Live Tiles and Toast Notifications. I learned a lot during setting up my WAMS for the app, and I did also write some blog posts about that (AzureDev posts).

Because of TweeCoMinder, I stopped developing my NFC app for that time, and did only bug fixing updates to my other apps.

In August (at least in the spare time I had), I moved my blog completely to run in a Windows Azure VM. I did it to get more control over the whole system and to learn more about running a web service. I still need to write my blog posts about setting the VM with LAMP on Azure, but I just didn’t have time for that until now. In August/September I also had again very very dark clouds hanging around, with my wife was very ill (you can’t even imagine how happy I am about the fact she has this part behind her). But our daily live is still affected by this – we just learned to arrange us with the new situation.

In October, I got back to my NFC Toolkit to finish it finally. The app has some cool and unique features utilizing NFC tags, and I am quite satisfied with my download numbers. NFC Toolkit is my main project for the moment.

But also on my 9to5 job I came to write code. I was asked to write an internal app for Windows Phone (Telefónica has a partnership with Microsoft, and so the company is flooded with Windows Phones). I used this to learn more about speech recognition on Windows Phone, as this is part of the application (Make your app listening to the user’s voice).

And finally, I also started with my very first Android app using Xamarin while porting the Windows Phone app I wrote before. I recently started to blog about my experiences with Xamarin (read more here).

In between all those projects, I made a basic reader app for the fan blog “This is Nokia”, using a PCL project for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. I also wrote a simple car dashboard app to integrate it in my NFC Toolkit app as well as Mix, Play & Share, which was written on a lonely Saturday night while my kids where sleeping an my wife was at her best friend.

Through the year, I learned a lot of coding, but also a lot about people. I made some very positive experiences – but also bad ones. I am always willing to help (if my still growing knowledge enables me to do so) – but sharing a feature rich app to another person isn’t helping – if you want to learn about development, there are plenty ways to do so. We have really great developers that blog about their experiences in our community, and by understanding how to code, you truly learn. Just using an already working app and restyling it, is the wrong way.

Well, that is what my year was about – a lot of coding, learning and again coding.

Dear followers, friends, WinPhans & WinPhanDevs – thank you for being with me this year. Let’s make 2014 an even more exciting year.

I wish you all “a good slide into the new year”, as we say here in Germany. May god bless you and your families also in the new year.

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, 0 comments

Game Review: EA Real Racing 2 for Windows Phone

It has been a very long time now that I did my last game review, but Real Racing 2 somehow made me changing this.

wp_ss_20130523_0012

 

Although the game is a Lumia Exclusive and has a relatively high price ($4.99/€4,99), I love racing games. After playing around with the trial version, it was clear that I’ll buy it. It needs 243 MB of your phone storage to work.

So let’s get into the game:

First, you need to choose a car to get into the racing cups and leagues. Therefore you get 25.000 bucks to buy a new car. I started with the Volkswagen Golf GTI, but you are also able to choose a 2010 Volvo C30.

wp_ss_20130523_0007

After buying your first car, you will have no money left for the moment, so you need to start your first race. There are 5 different ways to control the game, I prefer the “Auto acceleration-Tilt to steer”-touch to brake combo.

I switched off the steering and the brake assistant because I want to control the car by myself (or even not, you will see).

wp_ss_20130523_0004

In most races you’ll start from the very last position and need to drive through to position 1. This is a bit tricky for the first races, because the CPU drivers are closing gaps very hard partly, but you will find a way to pass them after you have made some experiences with it. Sometimes it also helps to be as rough as the CPU drivers.

You have 5 different camera angles which you can use during a race:

  • in car
  • behind the car – near
  • behind the car – far
  • front on top of the engine hood
  • front bumper

I often us the front bumper angle, but with Real Racing 2 it is a lot of more fun to use the in car angle. The movements of the driver are realistic, which makes the whole game play more realistic.

Of course, like every good racing game, Real Racing 2 let’s you pimp your car a little bit. There are upgrade packages which you can buy like Racing brake pads or a chip tuning for your engine.

wp_ss_20130523_0009

Besides the career mode, you can also play Quick Race, Time Trial or Multi Player. There is also a Leaderboard, where you can check how good you are compared to your friends.

Cars from the following  constructors are available:

  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Jaguar
  • Lotus
  • McLaren
  • Nissan
  • Volkswagen
  • Volvo

Every constructor has street models as well as special racing models to choose from. Over all, I already love this game, and hardly can put it down.

Here is a short demonstration of the game in action. Thanks to my son Daniele, who was the “camera man” for this video:

If you use my blog reader app, click here to open the browser.

You can download the game here in the Windows Phone Store.

Posted by msicc in Game Reviews, Windows Phone, 0 comments