Tag windows (8)

Surface review
Mood: excited
Posted on 2012-11-01 21:06:00
Tags: windows reviews
Words: 427

Well, it's been a week since I waited in line for 3 hours to buy a Surface, so it's about time for a review. Unfortunately it's been a busy week so I haven't had as much time to play with it as I would have liked, but here goes:

- The Surface itself feels very solid and light at the same time. I really wish it had wireless charging, but oh well. I've been using it throughout the day and it's been fine on battery life.

- The Touch Cover takes some getting used to (since the keys don't move), but I'm already typing pretty quickly on it - not quite as fast as a real keyboard but much faster than a virtual keyboard. (I'm typing this review on my Surface) I played with a Type Cover at the Microsoft Store today, and while it is a little thicker it felt exactly like typing on a real keyboard, so that might be worth the investment if you're going to be writing novels.

- The kickstand is nice although it would be nice if it could work at different angles. The kickstand itself feels very, very solid.

- The OS itself feels pretty fast and fluid, although some apps are a little laggy. The mail app in particular is really not that great and kinda slow. The store app can be a little laggy too. But overall I've been pretty happy.

- I haven't used the split screen view much, but I'm typing this while watching Netflix which is super awesome! Look here!

- The Windows Store is coming along - it still seems like new apps are being added at a good rate.

- Having Microsoft Office is really pretty handy, even if it's not totally designed for touch. The Skydrive service (Microsoft's version of Dropbox) and app are pretty handy as well.

- I got a free year of Xbox Music, which means I can download and stream a bunch of music for free. The app was acting a little funny earlier, but the idea is pretty cool and the selection is good. The speaker volume is acceptable but I wish it would go 15% louder.

- The Kindle app is fine enough, although following footnotes is surprisingly slow. The screen brightness makes it very pleasant to read on.

So all in all: two thumbs up! The hardware is eye-catching (I went with the cyan Touch Cover) and for the first few days people were stopping by at work to play around with it. I'm looking forward to travelling with it and seeing how it holds up


quick thoughts on Surface pricing
Mood: excited
Posted on 2012-10-16 09:20:00
Tags: windows essay
Words: 279

The pricing for the new Microsoft Surface leaked this morning - supposedly it's $499 for the 32 GB version, $599 for the 64 GB version, and a touch cover will run $119.

First: yes this is just a leak, and I saw some wishful thinking that the leak was on purpose and the real prices will be $100 lower. This seems pretty unlikely given that things leak all the time, and since it's coming out in 10 days someone probably just pressed "Publish" too early.

As a Windows 8 app developer, I wish Microsoft was giving these away for free :-P But I think $499 is a reasonable starting price - you can argue that it's cheaper than the iPad (since the $499 iPad only has 16 GB of storage), but the cheapest one is the same price (although this is ignoring the old iPad 2's that start at $399...and I'm guessing Apple still sells a lot of those?). Of course, that's what the TouchPad started at and that didn't turn out so well, but Microsoft can always cut the price later to juice sales if they want.

And they've already started running commercials, and I think it will get a good amount of press since it's launching with Windows 8.

The touch cover is interesting - my gut reaction was "$119 for a cover??" but then I remembered how awesome it is. Nice that they're featuring it in ads, and I think if people play with one at a Microsoft store they'll understand why it's worth the price.

(for the record, I am totally planning on getting one...probably the 32 GB version with a touch cover. Haven't decided on colors yet :-) )


Marriage Map now available for Windows 8!
Mood: happy
Posted on 2012-08-29 10:38:00
Tags: windows projects
Words: 39

My same-sex marriage map is now available on the Windows Store!

This is my third app in the Windows Store, and given that there are now ~650 apps on the Windows Store, just under 0.5% of them are mine :-)


Windows 8 - PasswordHash now available, getting excited!
Mood: hopeful
Posted on 2012-08-24 13:19:00
Tags: windows essay windowsphone projects
Words: 281

PasswordHash is now available on the Windows Store! This is particularly nice for me as I've been using Windows 8 more and now I don't need to keep a browser tab up to the PasswordHash homepage. The port was pretty quick since it does so little (and I like the brown :-) ) - one feature that I did add was auto-clearing of the master password and generated password field. Since state for apps tends to stick around in Windows 8, now you don't have to worry about explicitly clearing those fields or closing the app.

(there's also a new version of FlightPredictor which makes the text more readable and fixes a crash when you purchase the app - whoops!)

I'm starting to get more excited in Windows 8 the more I learn about it. (just yesterday I learned that Windows+X or right-clicking the space where the Start menu used to be brings up a bunch of useful shortcuts) It seems like apps are flowing into the store at a good rate - I saw an estimate of 50-100 per day somewhere.

The developer experience has been quite good over the last few months. The new app hub for Windows 8 is very functional (and they even upgraded the Windows Phone app hub, which fixed a bunch of my complaints), and the four times I've submitted apps they've gone through the entire review process in under 24 hours, which is pretty amazing.

I'm hoping downloads of FlightPredictor pick up - it would be nice to have a review or two when Windows 8 releases "for real" in late October. Until then, I'm working on porting the same-sex marriage map to Windows 8 - it's coming along quite nicely!


FlightPredictor now available on the Windows Store for #win8!
Mood: exuberant
Posted on 2012-08-17 09:58:00
Tags: windows projects
Words: 135

I'm happy to announce that FlightPredictor is now available on the Windows Store! As usual, it has a ton of features, plus some new goodies like live tiles and beautiful city backgrounds.

I started working on the app in April, and since them I've poured a lot of time into it. The app has around 11K lines of C# (and 2.5K lines of XAML), and it took on the order of 150 Subversion commits.

Special thanks to Jared Bienz (@jbienz), Ryan Joy (@atxryan), and a bunch of other Microsoft people who helped me along the way. (also, thanks to whoever's working submission duty - it went from submitted to approved in about 12 hours!)

Next up: more improvements to the app and marketing, marketing, marketing! I'm also working on porting the marriage map to Windows 8.


personal stuff: FlightPredictor for windows 8, windows phone 7, and baking advice
Mood: cheerful
Posted on 2012-06-20 10:30:00
Tags: windows windowsphone projects
Words: 136

FlightPredictor for Windows Phone 7 now has 7 five star reviews! The latest one came in a few days ago, and there's little that motivates me more to keep working on apps. Hooray!

Speaking of which, I've been working hard on FlightPredictor for Windows 8. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to show it off to some Microsoft folks...and it was a disaster. (many embarrassing bugs showed up, for reason that aren't interesting) Since then I've made a lot of progress, and I'm going to be showing it off again next week. The app is around 80% done, with only one big scary part left (push notifications). Wish me luck!

(and how about that Surface? I'd love to have FlightPredictor running on that :-) )

Finally, a word of advice: don't bake shirtless. That is all.


Windows 8 Metro: everything is fine re background tasks, nothing to see here
Mood: satisfied
Posted on 2012-05-14 21:17:00
Tags: windows essay windowsphone programming
Words: 137

After kvetching a bit about Windows 8 Metro background tasks, Jared Bienz set me straight.

The right way to do this is to either use push notifications to update the tile, or a TileUpdateManager to have it poll for tile updates. In both cases the difference is that you're not actually scheduling a background task - you're just providing a way to get a tile notification, which is a bit of XML that describes how to change the tile.

Now, this isn't ideal for me the programmer, since I need to set up an extra server, but it does scale better with lots of different apps and preserves battery life, etc. So it's all good, and hopefully lots of Win 8 apps will take advantage of one of these two ways to get power-efficient live tiles that update!


Windows 8 Metro background task restrictions are way too strict (even versus Windows Phone 7!)
Mood: confused
Posted on 2012-05-08 13:43:00
Tags: windows rant essay windowsphone programming
Words: 548

Edit: See the followup post on why this isn't a big deal, and the right way to do updating live tiles in Windows 8 Metro.

I've been working on porting FlightPredictor to the shininess of Windows 8 Metro. One of the key features of FlightPredictor is the ability to pin a live tile for a flight, and have that live tile update periodically in the background.

On Windows Phone 7, there are a lot of restrictions on background agents like the one in FlightPredictor that updates the live tiles. The agent can't run more frequently than every 30 minutes (and when it actually gets called is not that regular), if it runs longer than 25 seconds it gets killed, and most importantly there's a limit to how many you can have active on the phone - Microsoft says phones must allow 6, but my Lumia 900 allows a maximum of 9. I've actually hit this limit, because live tiles that are always up to date are cool.

So, I've started to work on this for Windows 8 Metro, and I found this whitepaper about Metro background tasks. There are a bunch of new ways to trigger running tasks (when you have internet access, for example, or when a user logs in), but you can also trigger them every 15 minutes, which is nice. There are also CPU requirements (now they're measured in CPU-seconds instead of wall time that the task runs) as I would expect.

Unfortunately, you can't use the TimeTrigger unless you display information on the lock screen. This requires extra user permission, which is OK enough, I guess. I wasn't planning on looking into showing flight info on the lock screen, but if that's necessary for my app to work the way I want it to I'm fine with that.

But here's the kicker: a user can only have seven apps show information on the lock screen. And three of these (Mail, Calendar, Messaging) are builtin! So this leaves four slots for apps to run based on a TimeTrigger in the background.

Now for the rant-y part: this is crazy. I have a bunch of apps that run in the background on my phone - as I said, having auto-updating live tiles is one of my favorite features of Windows Phone. To drastically cut the number of apps that can do this on an OS that's designed for a tablet (so presumably better battery life, etc. than on a phone) is way too strict and a step backwards.

It is possible I've missed something here, and I'd love to hear feedback on it. This is just a policy decision - what I would really like is the ability to run based on a TimeTrigger even if my app isn't on the lock screen, with reasonable limits.

Addendum: one way around the limit on Windows Phone 7 is to use push notifications - then your app doesn't have to run in the background and doesn't count against the limit. But it looks to me from reading the Metro whitepaper is that even apps that want to run based on a push notification have to be on the lock screen. Or is there a way to use a push notification to update a tile without having an app run? I'm not sure...


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