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December 2012 Entries
New Yahoo Mail App For Windows 8 - Review

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I had heard that Yahoo was bringing out a new web interface, but I was surprised to find a Windows 8 app show up in the store as a featured app.  Given this is my mainstay for mail no matter what company I work for or what internet provider I am using.  Now the question is how much benefit does it give over the Windows Mail client?

For basic functionality the Yahoo Mail app is well laid out and easy to use.  It makes quick work of operations like moving messages to folders or creating and replying to messages.  It is also fast and beautiful and looks almost exactly the same as the new web interface.

On the negative side I would really like to see are calendar and contact management.  The only setting that you can manage in the app is your signature.  It would be nice to at least be able to set how often the app looks for new messages.

In the end I think consolidate access to multiple mail services is best in a time when no one has just one email account.  For now if I don’t have access to Outlook I will continue to use the Windows Mail client.

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Posted On Friday, December 14, 2012 2:41 PM | Comments (1)
Microsoft Changes Developer Account Registration Requirements

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed that Microsoft seems to have changed the requirements for Corporate accounts.  These requirements were not in effect when I originally setup the account for the company that I work for.  We also recently had our corporate account canceled without explanation and are in the process of working to get it reinstated.  This all seems to revolve around rules to increase confidence that in the producers of content.  They are now having Symantec validate a company based on legal documents.

In the past there have been problems with getting credit cards accepted.  We have had to setup new Live IDs to satisfy whatever glitch the system had or unexplainable requirement.  I am hoping that in the time that has elapsed these problems have been resolved.

In truth I can’t say that these new requirements weren’t always in place, but it is getting frustrating to help clients setup accounts.  I am encourage that they have taken steps to safeguard the consumer from Joe-fly-by-night, but they also need to make sure that the process doesn’t become so complex that it drives away companies from participating in the store.  We will have to keep an eye on this as things evolve.

Posted On Friday, December 7, 2012 10:15 AM | Comments (2)
Nokia Windows Phone 8 App Collection

I recently upgraded to a Nokia Lumia 920.  Along with it came the availability of a number of Nokia developed apps or apps that Nokia has made available from other developers.  Below is a summary of some of the ones that I have used to this point.  There are quite a few of them so I won’t be covering everything that is available.

Nokia Maps

I am quite pleased with the accuracy of Nokia Maps and not having to tap the screen for each turn any more.  The information on the screen is quite good as well.  The couple of improvements I would like to see are for the voice directions to include which street or exit you need to use and improve the search accuracy.  Bing maps had much better search results in my opinion.

Nokia Drive

This one really had me confused when I first setup the phone.  I was driving down the road and suddenly I am getting notification tones, but there were no visual notifications on the phone.  It seems that in their infinite wisdom Nokia thinks I don’t know when I am going over the speed limit and need to be told.

ESPN

I really liked my ESPN app on Windows Phone 7.5, but I am not getting the type of experience I was looking for out of this app.  While it allows me to pick my favorite teams, but there isn’t a pivot page or panorama page that shows a summary of my favorite teams.  I have also found that the live tile don’t update very often.  Over all I am rather disappointed compared app produced by ESPN.

Smart Shoot

I really need to get the kids to let me use this on.  I like the concept, but I need to spend more time with it.  The idea how running the camera through a continuous shooting mode and then picking the best is something that I have done with my DSLR and am glad to see it available here.

Cinemagraph

Here is a fun filter.  It doesn’t have the most accurate editing features, but it is fun to stop certain parts of a scene and let other parts move.  As a test I stopped the traffic on the highway and let the traffic on the frontage road flow.  It makes for a fun effect.  If nothing else it could be great for sending prank animations to your friends.

YouSendIt

I have only briefly touched this application.  What I don’t understand is why it is needed.  Most of the functionality seems to be similar to SkyDrive and it gives you less storage.  They only feature that seems to differentiate the app is the signature capability.

Creative Studio

This app has some nice quick edits, but it is not very comprehensive.  I am also not to thrilled with the user experience.  It puts you though an initial color cast series that I’m not sure why it is there.  Discovery of the remaining adjustments isn’t that great.  In the end I found myself wanting Thumbia back.

Panorama

This is one of the apps that I like.  I found it easy to use as it guides you with a target circle that you center for it to take the next pictures.  It also stitches the images with amazing speed.  The one thing I wish it had was the capability to turn the phone into portrait orientation and do a taller panorama.  Perhaps we will see this in the future.

Nokia Music

After getting over the missing album art I found that there were a number of missing features with this app as well.  I have a Zune HD and I am used to being able to go through my collection and adding songs, albums or artists to my now playing.  There also doesn’t seem to be a way to manage playlists that I have seen yet.  Other than that the UI is familiar and it give

Nokia City Lens

Augmented reality is a cool concept, but I still haven’t seen it implemented in a compelling fashion beyond a demo at TED a couple of years ago.  The app still leaves me wanting as well.  It does give an interesting toy.  It gives you the ability to look for general categories and see general direction and clusters of locations.  I think as this concept is better thought out it will become more compelling.

Nokia Trailers

I don’t know how often I will use this app, but I do like being able to see what movies are being promoted.  I can’t wait for The Hobbit to come out and the trailer was just what the doctor ordered.  I can see coming back to this app from time to time.

PhotoBeamer

PhotoBeamer is a strange beast that needs a better instruction manual.  It seems a lot like magic but very confusing.  I need some more testing, but I don’t think this is something that most people are going to understand quickly and may give up before getting it to work.  I may put an update here after playing with it further.

Ringtone Maker

The app was just published and it didn’t work very well for me. It couldn’t find 95% of the songs that Nokia Music was playing for me and crashed several times.  It also had songs named wrong that when I checked them in Nokia Music they were fine.  This app looks like it has a long way to go.

Summary

In all I think that Nokia is offering a well rounded set of initial applications that can get any new owner started.  There is definitely room for improvement in all of these apps.  The main need is usability upgrades.  I would guess that with feedback from users they will come up to acceptable levels.  Try them out and see if you agree.

Posted On Wednesday, December 5, 2012 3:03 PM | Comments (2)
2012–The End Of The World Review

The end of the world must be coming.  Not because the Mayan calendar says so, but because Microsoft is innovating more than Apple.  It has been a crazy year, with pundits declaring not that the end of the world is coming, but that the end of Microsoft is coming.  Let’s take a look at what 2012 has brought us.

The beginning of year is a blur.  I managed to get to TechEd in June which was the first time that I got to take a deep dive into Windows 8 and many other things that had been announced in 2011.  The promise I saw in these products was really encouraging.  The thought of being able to run Windows 8 from a thumb drive or have Hyper-V native to the OS told me that at least for developers good things were coming.

I finally got my feet wet with Windows 8 with the developer preview just prior to the RTM.  While the initial experience was a bit of a culture shock I quickly grew to love it.  The media still seems to hold little love for the “reimagined” platform, but I think that once people spend some time with it they will enjoy the experience and what the FUD mongers say will fade into the background.  With the launch of the OS we finally got a look at the Surface.  I think this is a bold entry into the tablet market.  While I wish it was a little more affordable I am already starting to see them in the wild being used by non-techies.

I was waiting for Windows Phone 8 at least as much as Windows 8, probably more.  The new hardware, better marketing and new OS features I think are going to finally push us to the point of having a real presence in the smartphone market.  I am seeing a number of iPhone users picking up a Nokia Lumia 920 and getting rid of their brand new iPhone 5.  The only real debacle that I saw around the launch was when they held back the SDK from general developers.

Shortly after the launch events came Build 2012.  I was extremely disappointed that I didn’t make it to this year’s Build.  Even if they weren’t handing out Surface and Lumia devices I think the atmosphere and content were something that really needed to be experience in person.  Hopefully there will be a Build next year and it’s schedule will be announced soon.  As you would expect Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 development were the mainstay of the conference, but improvements in Azure also played a key role.  This movement of services to the cloud will continue and we need to understand where it best fits into the solutions we build.

Lower on the radar this year were Office 2013, SQL Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012.  Their glory stolen by the consumer OS and hardware announcements, these new releases are no less important.  Companies will see significant improvements in performance and capabilities if they upgrade.  At TechEd they had shown some of the new features of Windows Server 2012 around hardware integration and Hyper-V performance which absolutely blew me away.  It is our job to bring these important improvements to our company’s attention so that they can be leveraged.

Personally, the consulting business in 2012 was the busiest it has been in a long time.  More companies were ready to attack new projects after several years of putting them on the back burner.  I also worked to bring back momentum to the Chicago Information Technology Architects Group.  Both the community and clients are excited about the new technologies that have come out in 2012 and now it is time to deliver.

What does 2013 have in store.  I don’t see it be quite as exciting as 2012.  Microsoft will be releasing the Surface Pro in January and it seems that we will see more frequent OS update for Windows.  There are rumors that we may see a Surface phone in 2013.  It has also been announced that there will finally be a rework of the XBox next fall.  The new year will also be a time for us in the development community to take advantage of these new tools and devices.  After all, it is what we build on top of these platforms that will attract more consumers and corporations to using them.

Just as I am 99.999% sure that the world is not going to end this year, I am also sure that Microsoft will move on and that most of this negative backlash from the media is actually fear and jealousy.  In the end I think we have a promising year ahead of us.

Posted On Monday, December 3, 2012 9:44 AM | Comments (0)

Tim Murphy

Tim is a Solutions Architect for PSC Group, LLC. He has been an IT consultant since 1999 specializing in Microsoft technologies. Along with running the Chicago Information Technology Architects Group and speaking on Microsoft and architecture topics he was also contributing author on "The Definitive Guide to the Microsoft Enterprise Library".



I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program



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