Archive for the ‘General Development’ Category
I thought I’d post something here about a new community initiative relevant to Aussie Window Phone users, developers and bloggers called ‘Developed Down Under’ – which officially went live to the public around 24 hours ago.
So What is Developed Down Under (aka DDU)
The idea was originally conceived (just over a month ago) by Scott Sheedy from wpdownunder.com to deduce a way of grouping together and promoting Windows phone apps from Australian developers. Garry Holden from Handiware suggested the name ‘Developed Down Under’ (which we ran with after consensus on twitter).
some of the goals of DDU included
- To improve visibility of App’s on the Windows phone platform that have been made by Aussie Developers.
- To help Aussie Windows phone users quickly find and locate Apps directly relevant to their local Aussie market – and have an easier way of identifying these products when looking at blogs, news sites etc (ie. coming up with a recognizable logo/icon and name)
- And similarly to what is being done with Apps – promoting local Aussie bloggers and news Sites who cover Australian specific Windows phone news.
And an App is born …
Last week the concept evolved from an idea (and a lot of behind the scenes work by Scott) – into a full blown Windows phone app (with inspiration from products like wp7nl, appflow, etc).
This product allows users to view a catalogue of Aussie Developed Apps – and then click through directly to that App’s page on Windows Marketplace (where it can be downloaded/purchased/rated/etc). There’s sections such as ‘Apps for Aussies’ (which filters out a list of apps purely designed for localized Aussie stuff like news, travel, weather etc) – and ability to browse by publisher, genre and get randomly selected ‘quick picks’.
On Wednesday night last week – Scott put out a call to all developers (http://www.wpdownunder.com/?p=4639) to nominate their own apps to be included in this catalogue (nb – this is where to go if you want your apps to be listed – it’s a live/online catalogue so we can add you in at any time) . Due to concerns with privacy/copyright issues – it was determined that simply auto including titles may cause numerous issues (and also that there was no simple way to determine which publishers on Marketplace where actually from Australia).
And by Thursday night last week (after I spent a whirlwind couple of days developing it and setting up all the required server side magic whilst Scott simultaneously put together the other required pieces) – the initial app was done and dusted and certified to marketplace.
You can see the App’s product page at : http://mobilewares.net/DevelopedDownUnder-WP7.aspx
Keep in mind of course it’s an initial release (0.9) – and the focus was to get something out there – so lots of bells + whistles that we didn’t have time to include will be added in coming versions.
An Amazing first Day Launch…
Last night (around 8:30pm) – after receiving a publishing success notification from Marketplace in the morning – we noticed the app could finally be downloaded via the deep link – and went live. We timed it with an awesome review from 1800pocketpc.com (who’d been provided with a XAP a few days earlier). You can check it out on the link below (there’s even a video there too of it in action).
Then overnight things went crazy – thanks to the above review, the overall buzz being generated on twitter (under our chosen hash tag #wpddu) – and a great placement in the WP7 new list (the App was actually one of the 4 listed ‘new’ apps on start page of online versions of Windows Phone Marketplace around the world) - resulting in a huge amount of downloads from all corners of the globe (and that was before the Australians who this app was targeted at had even woken up).
Today (thanks to some awesome behind the scenes PR work by Scott) – we also got plugged on a number of news sites – including a couple of real biggies (that reached out further into the mainstream than we’d ever expected), such as :-
Not to mention some of the awesome WP7 focussed news sites who helped spread the word too over the past week (along with a swag of positive and encouraging tweets in the #wp7au community too) :
Peter’s Kitchen : http://www.peterskitchen.net/?p=7639
Now nearly 24 hours later – I’m staggered by the amount of people who have installed this app. Even though I have some pretty popular titles in the AU Marketplace (and have had similar in the US before) – I’ve never seen such a large volume of users downloading a Windows phone app before in such a short space of time.
The Developer Response
However – none of this would be possible without the humbling show of support from the Australian Windows Phone developer community – who have been submitting their apps for us to include.
As per the snapshot below from the scorecard – (catch the real live one on wpdownunder.com ) – a few hours ago we were up to 76 submitted apps (from 22 publishers) – well on the way to our first 100.
There’s still quite a few more AU developers out there we would like to get on board (who likely have not heard about it – or were away for Easter break) – and hope they can come in and nominate their apps when they hear about it. If you’re one of them – please click here to visit the signup page on wpdownunder. It’s free, quick and may be the best thing you’ve ever done for your App (ok that’s a stretch – but you get the general idea).
We’ve also had 3 other news sites/blogs (apart from wpdownunder) providing dedicated Aussie Windows Phone news feeds for us to use in the App (via the aggregated news feed which shows all the content chronologically) – 1800pocketpc.com techin5.com and peterskitchen.com – culminating in the ‘best of the best’ of Aussie WP7 news. Huge thanks to all of these sites for their support!
The Win-Win-Win cycle of DDU
One of the great things about this initiative (apart from it being driven by an enthusiastic community) is that it’s an all round win for everyone (if it’s successful of course – but looking quite likely from our first day’s feedback/downloads).
I don’t know which comes first (the chicken or the egg) – but the way I see the cycle is :
- More Apps submitted into DDU = more content for users to look at
- More content for users to look at = more people wanting to use the app
- More people using the app = more downloads/visibility for the publishers submitting the apps
- more downloads for publishers = more apps being made
- more apps being made = more submissions to DDU
and so on and so forth…. (I could quite possibly throw in the More Aussie Apps = More Handsets Being sold type cycle in there too – but you get the drift..)
So what are you waiting for – go and download it now – it’s free!
Anyhow – if you want to check it out – please visit http://mobilewares.net/DevelopedDownUnder-WP7.aspx (for product page and deep links) – or alternatively – point Bing Vision on your Windows Phone to the following QRCode below (and you’ll be taken straight into the app download page in the Marketplace App).
Don’t forget to visit http://wpdownunder.com to keep up with news – and share the love on our twitter hash tag #wpddu
And on that note – a massive thank-you to everyone who has supported this initiative with submissions, tweets, words of encouragement, news , downloaded the app!
It’s truly awesome to see the wp7 dev + enthusiast community come together like this for a common goal – and I’m really excited about the potential of where this will all go.
Although this news is a little old (announced last week) – it’s hard not to get really excited by the new developments happening over in the Silverlight camp at Microsoft for the upcoming Beta 1 release of Silverlight 2.0. (which I believe is being scheduled for launch at Mix ’08 next week).
Silverlight 2.0 (formerly known as Silverlight 1.1) is essentially the cross platform technology trying to give Flash a run for it’s money in the RIA space – but leverages the ‘developer’ focused tools, technologies and audience that Microsoft has by using .NET and XAML – which in turn means you get great tools like Visual Studio 2008 to work with coupled with design tools like Expression Blend (which are starting to take shape – although still quite a way to go there).
While a lot of ‘designers’ out there will just say Microsoft are simply playing ‘catch up’ with Adobe – I think Adobe never quite understood the whole ‘developer IDE’ thing (and I know I was pretty put off Flash everytime I had to do any project work involving more than 10 lines of code – as the ActionScript etc experience is really quite disturbing for anyone spoilt by Visual Studio – or just about any other Developer IDE such as Borland’s, Eclipse etc etc).
What’s so good about Silverlight 2.0 – didn’t 1.0 tank?
While Silverlight 1.0 didn’t get a lot of traction against Flash last year (and the fact that most of the Microsoft sites still use Flash instead of Silverlight is proof of that) – it was a great ‘start’ and a sign of MS moving forward from WPF/.NETv3 (which ‘sported’ a pretty buggy, incompatible and clunky runtime platform – and made it pretty unusable/un-deployable in the vast majority of scenarios). After WPF - Silverlight 1.0 came back – reduced the feature set (substantially) – but offered a mean/lean runtime which was (sortof) cross platform – and actually made it a serious contender in the RIA space.
- controls, controls, controls… (with SL 1.0 you had to reinvent the wheel from primatives – ie. not even a scroller, listbox or flow layout panel was provided)
- reduced cross domain security restrictions (SL 1.0 was massively restrictive in that everything had to come from the same domain- which was I guess a great big misunderstanding of how Web 2.0 actually worked.) – and true support for a raft of commonly used webservice models and even socket support.
- Styles, Templating and more. (aka. Some of the great features that made initially WPF a fantastic ‘specification’ are back – and this time *hopefully* they don’t perform like a bucket-of-crap).
Although not directly mentioned – I really do hope some of these other things get improved/sorted (either for this BETA 1 release or at least for the full release) :
- Full 64 bit compatibility (ie. so we can use Silverlight in 64bit containers – ie. Vista Sidebar and Vista on 64bit machines). Same goes for Windows CE and other mobile platforms – which is really a must to sway people away from Flash.
- Full Key Focus/Handling behavior (and x 2 for full screen mode) – so Remote Controls + 10 foot can be properly supported too.
- Support for more Video codecs + IPTV protocols (SL 1.0 was WMV only). Moving forward – for any video playback technology to be treated seriously – support for codecs like H264, MPEG2/MPEG4 is an absolute must (DVR-MS, Divx/XVid etc would be nice too). I think Flash can do all (or some of) this already.
- Protection of IP (thats NOT just DRM on Video/Audio). Hopefully there’s some serious thought given to how BOTH developers and content owners can protect their assets when deploying them via Silverlight 2.0 (as obfuscators etc are somewhat less useful the smaller the codebase). Silverlight 1.0 didn’t offer any form of protection whatsoever (except for dynamic XAML being generated by a back-end server) – so developers were essentially serving up their IP on a silver platter (to anyone who wanted to take a look).
Why I (personally) am excited about what I see coming with 2.0…
While it’s still early days – the really great thing about Silverlight is that it’s a sign the team (and thinking) behind it are :
- Adapting : Moving forward and adding the features that the market wants.. (In a very short time frame / release cycle as well..). We don’t need to ‘wait until Windows 7′ etc etc to get the new goodies.
- Doing (not just ‘listening’) : v1.1 wasn’t going to win them too many new friends – so they took a good look at themselves, canned 1.1 – and focused on 2.0 which incorporated a what a lot of developers were asking for.
- Talking + Showing : Even though the BETA hasn’t been launched yet (if you exclude SL 1.1 Beta – which has been around for 12 months now) – guys like Scott Guthrie are out there telling the market what’s to come – and there’s that element of transparency going on all the way with Silverlight (by screenshots and feature lists being detailed before it’s even available to developers).
And the winner will be..(not the public just yet) ?
So – it’s going to be an interesting time over the next couple of years in the world of Web 2.0/3.0/RIA/IPTV etc. Microsoft are currently really suffering from the ‘self inflicted’ fragmentation caused by offering a lot of different developer platforms to the public – Silverlight for the Web, WPF + WinForms for desktops, CF.NET + XHTML for Mobiles, XNA for XBox360 + Zune, MCPL for MediaCenter – and the list goes on and on (and most of these are reliant on Windows being used for the development and proprietary devices/platforms being used for the runtime).
There’s simply no unifying technology (other than .NET) in the Microsoft camp just yet – so makes it quite a poor value proposition for companies who want to invest in this new world. (and want some reuse across platforms with their investment)
In this respect – companies like Adobe and Apple are clearly winning – and via their ‘lack of options’ on offer – they are making the choices a lot simpler and clearer for both companies and consumers.
Hopefully technologies like Silverlight 2 (which are more developer friendly) can make it’s mark and get some inroads on Flash. (and it’s looking like the best bet so far out of all the Microsoft technologies on offer). All we need now is a release date for the full version (which is the real date when it can start to make this traction).
I’ve been playing with the full release of Visual Studio 2008 for about a week now. This included the Visual Studio 2008 Team system Trial + and a couple of the ’Express’ Versions for good measure. (VB + Web).
The new Media Center SDK v5.3 released JIT (a couple of days prior to VS2008 launch) – also provides some new templates for MCPL developers using VS2008. (although read this important note if you don’t have a VS2005 product also installed).
Unfortunately my MSDN Pro subscription expired just 2 weeks shy of the VS2008 suite release – so I’ve missed out on a free upgrade 8( – and am sorting out my new license right now. … (My previous subscription was on the VS2003/2005 +MSDN2YR special offer available in Nov 2005 - and I don’t think MS intended that any of us would get VS2008 as well).
Since I’m not doing large team development – the most viable version for me is the Pro version (not Team Versions which I downloaded) – however the trial download of this edition isn’t yet available (if you are not on MSDN Pro).
Unfortunately – the majority of projects I’m working on don’t allow me to fully utilize the new goodness provided in .NET 3.5 – (but hopefully the common folk will get issued these new frameworks in good time) – but thanks to the ability to work with multiple .NET Frameworks in VS2008 – I’ve been able to do 2.0 development just fine …
In terms of the new IDE – I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve seen so far. While the actual UX is a small evolution on VS2005 - like with most things MS – the enhanced extensibility platform provided by VS2008 is where a lot of the revolution is going to happen (btw – none of this is available with the free Express Editions). As you’d expect the internal Intellisense system (both markup and code) has been made leaner and meaner (and is even better at prompting you with appropriate coding constructs then before – and stuff like the new 3.5 LINQ is superbly handled).
Some VS2008 highlights for me :
Extensibility! The "Visual Studio 2008 SDK" now has 2 flavours/modes ; "integrated" (for those extending the existing VS2008 environment) – and "isolated" (for those wanting to build entirely new IDE’s which utilize the infrastructure provided by VS2008 and combine it with custom editors etc). The new enhancements in this area are simply awesome – and will hopefully allow some great 3rd party dev tools + environments to be made.
In terms of Media Center development – there could be some really useful tools made here.
For example - some custom tools that I wrote to help with MediaCenter development both inside VS2005 (via DevExpress Inc. DXCore) + and outside (via Windows Form Apps) are picture below.
This tool I made (with around 50 lines of code I think) "MCML Helper" – (see docked toolwindow on right of screenshot) auto scans my MCML document and creates a quick pick list of the <UI> sections (a base building block in MCML). I wrote this as my MCML files started getting really large (or segmented into several includes) – and it became pretty time consuming locating to appropriate MCML code when small changes needed to be made. (its similar to the Drop Down list in your code editor – and when you double click on a node – it will move your cursor to the starting element of the appropriate block).
This tool is an external Winforms Application – designed specifically for resizing images (at locked aspect) – and determining the 9Grid coordinates in MCML. The results are then output as MCML code for direct pasting into your project.
I’d love to have a stab at putting these natively inside VS2008 with the new extensibility features. The other new tools in the Media Center SDK 5.3 (like Animation Explorer) would also work a treat inside the Visual Studio IDE. (if only we could host MCPLPad too)
The Media Center Developement community is of course screaming for a Visual Editor for MCML as well – and this is a definitely possibility with the extensibility platform. (and a lot of what is needed is provided out of the box).
For example – currently when I do Silverlight Sidebar Gadget developement - it’s truely scarey just how many different IDE’s/Design Tools need to be simultaneously loaded to achieve my end result (can’t imagine doing this without my 3 monitors, quad core cpu and lots of gb’s) – and I hope one day to just settle down inside 1 or 2 apps (and spend less time switching/converting output between each environment)…
One problem for me with VS2008 was when using VS2008 Team System for editing my website (ASP.NET Backend Code) – the UI just kept continuously crashing on me (with not responding etc).
Part of the problem seemed to be with it trying to sync files at random times (that weren’t needed or updated on the server) – right in the middle of me editing some code (and the IDE would just freeze up for seconds at a time – and sometimes not return at all). Although hitting the ’escape’ key could cancel the current file being transferred – there was no ‘cancel all’ button – so you had to hit escape/confirm multiple times each time this sync kicked in. It’s possible that I just don’t have the right settings enabled for my ASP.NET project (although I did spend some time looking) – and theres some way for it to behave better. I do actually have a ADSL2+ (8mb) connection – so would hate to think how slow an experience it might have been on ADSL1.
The VS2008 Express version (Web) seemed to handle things a little better with this (maybe due partially to the much more lightweight IDE and it trying to do ‘less’ smarts) – so in some respects offers a better experience depending on what your needs are.
Anyhow – I’m looking forward to getting hold of my proper licensed VS2008 ‘Pro’ edition ASAP – and hopefully will be the right balance between Express (lightweight – but no extensibility etc) - and Team (heavyweight – gives you everything including the kitchen sink)..