Posts filed under Windows Store Apps

Highlights von der Build 2014 - .NET User Group Austria

In the context of the .NET User Group Austria Christian Nagel held a nice presentation about the news from the //build/ 2014. It was a very subjective listing and on purpose he did not try to be very objective with his selection. Which would not be possible given the 1.5h time frame ;)

Don't forget that you can watch all the sessions online at Channel9


1. Internet of Things

Since the forecasts of the number of devices connected to the internet increase every month its clear that Microsoft also is not missing this train and presented numerous efforts in this area: Windows Embedded compact 2013, Windows Embedded and the .NET micro framework.


2. Best session: "IT'S A TRAP - 3 Remarkably Common UI Traps and How to Avoid Them in Your Designs"

For Christian, the best session of the whole //build was the "Its a trap!" session of Steve Herbst and Michael Medlock. View this session - its highly recommended.


3. .NET 4.5.1

Although some of the participants were developing with .NET 4.5.1 already, Christian presented the new features of 4.5.1 like 64-bit edit and continue, method return value inspection, async debugging enhancements, ASP.NET application suspension, multicore JIT improvements, on-demand large heap compaction and many more. For an in-depth session I recommend watching "The Next Generation of .NET for Building Applications" by Habib Heydarian.


4. "Roslyn"

With Roslyn, Microsoft did a complete rewrite of the c# and the VB compiler and exposing them as rich APIs for everyone to use. This enables every developer for a better development experience, VS extensions are easier to write now and since its a complete new architecture its easier to extend and maintain for Microsoft. Also, its fully open source now! The session "The future of C#" highlights in depth knowledge about Roslyn. 


5. C# language features - vnext

At the end we got a glimpse of how the next version of C# will look like. Microsoft and the community had a lot of ideas how the language can be improved. But many of them were complicated to develop in the old compiler. So with Roslyn, Microsoft is now in the position to realise them. Here you can see the status of all these improvements. 

Just to tease you a bit:

  • Primary constructors
  • Auto-property initializers
  • Getter-only auto-properties
  • Dictionary initializers
  • Await in catch/finally
  • Null propagation


6. Wrap up

Eventhough I am not liking some of the new C# language features - or it might be that I don't fully understand them? ;) - it was good to hear from Christian his own impressions and what he found noteworthy from the //build. Max Knor, who also listened to the presentation, recommended his own topics from the //build/ while he helped us killing the provided Pizza after the presentation ;) 

Lumia 1020 replacing my iPhone - reviewing the camera

Remark: Not a "scientific" review

Now, I used this camera to have fun with it - i did not do any lens chart test pics, pixel-peeping etc. Neither do I have the technical means to make such a test nor do I want to make it. If you look for this, just google around, you will find hundreds. 

 

As you probably know, one of the selling points of the 1020er is the built in camera. Here are the specs taken from the Nokia website:

- Main camera sensor: 41 MP, PureView
- Main camera focus type: Auto focus
- ZEISS optics: Yes
- Sensor size: 1/1.5 inch
- Main camera f-number/aperture: f/2.2
- Camera focal length: 26 mm
- Camera minimum focus range: 15 cm
- Camera image formats: JPEG
- Flash type: Xenon flash
- Flash operating range: 4.0 m
- Flash modes: Off, Automatic, On

Main camera
- other features: Optical image stabilization
- PureView
- Backside-illuminated image sensor
- 6-lens optics
- High resolution zoom 3x
— http://www.nokia.com/global/products/phone/lumia1020/specifications/

How can a mobile phone have a camera with 41MP?

The idea behind this number is simple: its difficult to build a zoom lens in a thin mobile phone. Zooming digitally is quality-wise really crappy - so: take a high-resolution picture (with 41 MP or 34MP as Nokia shows in some screens) and zoom after taking the picture. There are enough pixels left and the quality of the lens allows for this. At any time you can go back to your 34MP photo and recompose/crop a new version of the 5MP. 

 

Combined with sharp Zeiss optics, an image stabilisation mechanism (you can even hear the lenses shuffle when you move the phone) makes a quite capable camera on paper. 

 

Now if you e.g. upload your photos to skydrive, the 5MP  version gets uploaded automatically (3072x1728 pixel). To get the full size images you need to connect your phone via USB and copy them directly.

 

But I shoot RAW!?

Since I work as a photographer I was blown away to hear, that Nokia is providing us with RAW DNGs out of the mobile phone camera soon: see here. Unfortunately so far I was not able to test this.

Manual Control

The Lumia 1020 camera allows you to control ISO and shutter speed manually. You still cannot change the aperture, but at least you can decide between ISO and shutter speed in your pictures. 

Full control for white balance, focus, exposure time and exposure compensation

Camera Software that comes with the Lumia 1020

The Lumia 1020 comes with a huge pack of apps that help getting the most out of your camera. I recommend using Nokia Camera for taking your Pictures. I played around with the Nokia Smart Cam but was not able to get real stunning results so far - but they implemented nice ideas and I was just using it in the wrong context. 

Unfortunately I have not found time yet to test the Nokia Cinemagraph, Nokia Creative Studio and the Nokia Panorama.

My personal experiences

With an aperture of f2.2 you can get a nice depth of field

The lens is extremely prone to flares (even if the light source is not directly visible in the frame)

The Lumia 1020 even allows for bracketing (but be aware the phone takes 2-3 seconds for storing each image in between the bracketing series)

Indoor images work fine (since you can control the whitebalance)

With the manual focus you can shoot objects nearer then the automatic can focus on - sorry for the early Christmas decoration ;)

Fazit

It is fun to play around with the Nokia camera and the quality is impressive. Though an additional review of the rest of the Nokia software suite is needed ;)

Posted on November 20, 2013 and filed under Photography, productivity, Testing, Windows Phone, Windows Store Apps.

Lumia 1020 replacing my iPhone - the HERE apps

I already blogged about replacing my most important Apps i use on the iPhone with Windows Store AppsIn general, this was OKish, but most of the time it was with a stale and vapid feeling. With one exception: the set of HERE apps from Nokia

 

HERE Maps

Usable, does what I expect from it and it can be used offline. N'uff said.

 

HERE Drive+ 

Turn by Turn navigation - as you know them. Though the map shows you important buildings in 3D - not beautiful but helpful ;)

wp_ss_20131112_0009.png

A pretty cool feature called "My Commute" knows your regular routes you drive and shows you the estimated travel time - taking traffic information into account. If you pin these route(s) on your start screen you always know how long you are driving. 

You can see that i use 43 minutes to commute to the code4ward head-quarters (normally its more like 25-30 mins) - and an exclamation mark. You can drill down and check, where you have the traffic jam. Drive+ also enables you to search for an alternative route. But what I like most is the tile on the start screen - a perfect example of how information can be presented in a short and concise manner!

HERE Transit

It's basically the same for public transportation. There are similar offerings here in Vienna like the homepage of the Wiener Linien or the app "Qando". But both have a bit complicated UIs - HERE transit is easy to use and it shows details of the bus/tram i use, how the stations are named, how many etc.

Posted on November 12, 2013 and filed under productivity, Testing, Windows Phone, Windows Store Apps.

Lumia 1020 replacing my IPhone - replacing my apps

For replacing my IPhone the Lumia has to give me the same functionality and solve my tasks as my IPhone did. So I will go through all apps installed on my first screen on the IPhone and try to find a good substitute on the Windows Phone 8 platform:

iphone_screen.PNG

Be aware, that this is not an in-depth test of any of the apps. I just use them on the go and try to get along with them - i didnt test all the features of all apps.  

 

Verdict

For those who don't want to read the details: in general I am satisfied with the Apps you can find the Windows Store - some (like Spotify and Foursquare) i like even more on the Windows Phone!

Previous iOS7 i would have said that the two platforms are on the same level when it comes to develop usable apps. But  with iOS7 Apple has done a good job (and actually applying and further enhancing main concepts that have been introduced by Microsoft in their Windows Phone 7 platform already!) and so they are ahead in the game already. I was astonished, how fast iOS apps are adapting to the new iOS7 style and now after a couple of weeks, almost all important apps have the iOS7 look. 

 

Also I believe that the "level of innovation" is still lacking in the Windows Phone area - the really cool and innovative apps are most of the time available for iOS and Android first. For example: Cycloramic re-invents how to do panorama pics , or measuring your heart rate with the IPhone. 

 

 

En detail

 

Browsing the internet

I think the new way of the iOS7 to display/hide the url and the navigation bar is quite sleek. But the browser on the WP8 is good enough. Sometimes websites don't seem to recognise the device as a mobile device and respond with the full website. 

Facebook 

The Facebook app is OK - pinned on the Start screen it only shows my own messages. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me ...  

Calendar 

The calender is ... well, there is room for improvement ;) I miss a search, the monthly overview is useless (you can't read the text anyway, just display something that shows that you have a meeting). Also with iOS7 there calendar was pimped with some really nice features like traveling time display.

 Twitter 

On iOS I use Tweetbot - not for free but really useful. It can handle multiple twitter-accounts and remembers what tweet you have read already. Even if you switch device! It's beautiful and you can navigate easily with one hand. The WP8 twitter app is not having any of these requirements. But i might have to dig deeper to find a good one.

LinkedIn, Xing

I added my LinkedIn and my twitter account to the "People" hub. You can not add a second Twitter account?! What a bummer ... 

Runtastic 

I did not buy the WP8 version, but the screenshots look similar. 

Foursquare 

The Foursquare app for WP8 is actually nicer than the iPhone version. 

Photos

Nothing to say here, the WP8 app do their job. The camera of the Lumia 1020 deserves its own blogpost though.

Spotify 

The Spotify app is really well designed - i like it more than the iOS version.

Podcasts 

I listen to many podcasts - i use the pre-fetch functionality and expect that when i am on the road, the podcasts (also video-podcasts with 100mb+) are already downloaded when i am at home and have WLAN access.  On the Windows Phone it seems, that there is no central place for podcasts. If somebody did an application (!) to encapsulate a podcast, you can install it. But this might even come at some cost! (To make this clear: you pay a guy that did a small wrapper-app around the Podcast, NOT the owner of the podcast that generates the actual content) I am very disappointed about the podcasts.

 

I tested the app IPodCast which did a much better job. Though it could not find all the podcasts i am listening to.

Instagram, Camera+ 

I've tried some Apps for WP8 but the filter did not convinced me so far. I will give the Nokia Smart Cam a more detailed look in another post.

Evernote 

I am not using this one heavily, for taking notes i actually use Day One. Though the Evernote app on WP8 is well designed and shows how efficient the design language of Modern UI apps can be!

Mailing  & SMS

The default mail app is sufficient, the display of threads is nice, setup of my exchange account went smooth.  Also the messages app is doing its job so far.

 

Posted on November 7, 2013 and filed under productivity, Testing, Windows Phone, Windows Store Apps.

Nokia Lumia 1020 phone for testing just arrived

I've been selected by Nokia Austria as a Nokia Lumia Tester for the 1020 model - and my deivce just arrived! 

 

My first impressions are remarkable good: its much bigger (the IPhone 4s is 115.2 x 58x6 x 9.3mm and the Lumia 1020 is 130.4 x 71.4 x 10.4mm) but at the same time the weight is similar (IPhone 4s: 140g versus 158g of the Lumia).

 

I got a white version that has a silky finish and feels pretty good and smooth in the hand. If i compare it directly side by side, my IPhone almost looks old - ok, this is not the new 5 or even 5s ;)

 

Posted on November 4, 2013 and filed under Photography, productivity, Testing, Windows Store Apps.

Testing the Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia-Lumia-1020.jpg

Today i got accepted as a Nokia Lumia 1020 Tester

 

My 2 year contract with my current Network operator will be over soon and i was considering a Lumia 1020 as a replacement for my IPhone 4s. So it was quite handy when Nokia was looking for some Testers of this model. I applied and got accepted :)

 

I will get my phone next monday - and i hope, i can honestly publish my findings here :) 

I want to focus on two areas:  

  1.  How is the camera compared to the IPhone camera, compared to my Olympus E-PM2 with my 1.8 lens and to my DSLRs
  2. How is software development when you have a real device at your disposal 

 

PS: It's somehow hard to type "1020" ... i always tend to type "2010" ;) 

Posted on October 31, 2013 and filed under Windows Store Apps, Testing.

Windows Store App Development - Lessions Learned

Claudia Oster from TechTalk invited to a talk about two real world Windwows Store App projects they have done with customers:

  • KiloCoach is an app that helps you reducing weight (a web version is already existing). This app is available in the store for free.
  • Profos which is for the private banking sector to support communication with customers (show them their portfolio, relevant documents etc). This app is not in the Windows Store and installed via Side Loading (since it has to be integrated with the bank's backend).

At the beginning of the talk, both apps were shown and their main features were explained, then the UI concepts that were applied in both cases were presented (there were finalized screens for the Profos app from an iOS prototype existing already). Last - but most intersting for me - was the development and deployment part where real world experiences were shared for both apps.

Key takeaways have been:

  • plan for some time to create an account (individual developer account or company account), create special Live accounts just for this and for verification
  • chose a 3rd party UI library but expect less features than in their WPF or even Winforms implementation (for both projects DevExpress was chosen based on an evaluation in January)
  • both apps need a local DB - SQLite DB was chosen for this task
  • the first initial release in the Windows Store took 3 days, new updates take less than one day
  • use the Windows App Cert Kit before you submit your bits (Microsoft uses this also then evaluating your submission)
  • if you plan to side load your app: beware of a lot of technical requirements (device needs to be domain joined and Side Loading Keys can only be bought in packages of 100 with $30 each - this might be way too much for you …)
  • test your bits on real hardware - only there you see real quirks! use Remote Debugging for WinRT for doing this - its easy and fast
  • plan for some time to wrap your head around “content before chrome” as described in the Windows 8 Product Guide for Developers - in many cases this is very tricky to get right!

    Example
    : how to show a hierarchy (for which you usually use a tree in Windows desktop apps). Best way they found: similar to the Finder on OSX. screenshot 

 In the finder of OSX you navigate from one column to another through the hierarchy. There is no such thing as a tree-control here.

In the finder of OSX you navigate from one column to another through the hierarchy. There is no such thing as a tree-control here.

In general: dont follow the Microsoft guidelines too strict - even Microsoft needs time to find out how specific requirements can be best implemented with their new modern UI ;)

Posted on June 7, 2013 and filed under development, Windows Store Apps.