Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

AppStudio gotcha

Recently, I upgraded the Granite State (NH) SharePoint Users Group’s website from WSS 3 (MOSS 2007 generation) to SharePoint Foundation 2013.  The upgrade itself went as well as a 2007 to 2010 to 2013 upgrade could go, in general.

The only real “problem” I ran into was the Windows Phone app I wrote for the group years ago.  It was coming up with a 401 error trying to grab content from lists.asmx.  

I spent some time digging in the dirt, trying to resolve the 401, and hit a few common settings known to have an impact, but no good.  

Rather than struggle with it in my not so copious amounts of spare time, I decided to trash the old app, and build a new one with AppStudio.  

The app loads content from the #NHSPUG web site (http://granitestatesharepoint.org), mostly via RSS feeds.  I put a little extra effort into this.  Using AppStudio (http://appstudio.windows.com), I found a couple hours…  after that, I had not only a much prettier v3 of the Windows Phone app, but a Windows 8.1 (tablet style) publishing package as well.

One thing that caught me off guard though… the Gotcha:

The Windows 8.1 edition of the app wouldn’t load the content from the users group website. 

With some debugging, I found that attempts to load the content were coming up with “Unable to connect to the remote server. hresult=   -2146233088”.

Turns out the error had to do with the fact that I had not enabled Capability “Private Networks (Client & Server” in the Package.appxmanifest.   Ironically, the app works fine anywhere except where I was trying to test it:  on the same network as the content source server. So, to be fair, this is an environmental/configuration issue, not AppStudio, but it was worth mentioning, since my original assumption led me down that path. Maybe this will help someone else.

Oh… Here’s the Windows Phone app:
http://www.windowsphone.com/s?appid=8c1ce3ea-9ffd-46a0-80bd-6b45d1019b32

And here’s the Windows 8.1 (tablet style) app:
http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/app/granite-state-sharepoint-users/01ea0a83-f3af-4be6-abb0-268587072686

And here’s my moment of shame recording the incident and solution in the forums:
https://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/windowsapps/en-US/be7b02cf-25d0-4aa2-8850-e0e2dce21fd2/appstudio-windows-81-apps-not-loading-external-content?forum=wpappstudio&prof=required

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Candy Crush Saga Would Fail on Windows Phone

Several sites including pocketgamer.fr and WMPowerUser are reporting that King has decided to not bring it’s popular Candy Crush Saga game to the Windows Phone ecosystem.  (It’s “on hold indefinitely”.)  I suspect Disney and Mojang have much more to do with this than Windows Phone’s market share.

Most sites reporting King’s changed stance cite poor growth of the Windows Phone ecosystem as the reason for putting Candy Crush for Windows Phone on hold.  I don’t believe them.

The news, of late, ironically, has been loudly about two things.  1)  after a lull while Nokia was absorbed by Microsoft, Windows Phone has significantly improved its market share in the past quarter or so.  2)  Microsoft bought Mojang.

The more likely reason:  (and I would love for King to prove me wrong, but…) I’m reasonably certain that if King released Candy Crush Saga for Windows Phone right now, it would fail… and I bet they know that.

I speculate that King has been holding their Candy Crush Saga app hostage from the Windows Phone ecosystem for some time, possibly hoping Microsoft would buy King in… a Mojang/Minecraft-like multi-billion dollar play. 

Clearly, Microsoft buying Mojang was a smart choice, since Minecraft has almost become a gaming platform of its own. There is a Minecraft community and ecosystem with many vendors producing products and supporting it for their own continued success.  I suspect that for those vendors, Microsoft buying Mojang will multiply Minecraft’s ecosystem success;  the ecosystem will be more broadly and more consistently available to more players.

King, on the other hand, is a one-hit wonder who’s core titles are fading as all titles do.

Candy Crush Saga’s fading brand isn’t the reason the title would fail on Windows Phone, however.  

The reason Candy Crush Saga would fail on Windows Phone is because Windows Phone has developed its own ecosystem, and King’s niche in that ecosystem has been filled by an even bigger fish…  namely Disney. 

Yes, Candy Crush Saga would have to compete with the likes of titles such as Frozen Free Fall and Maleficent Free Fall, which are both magnificent implementations of switch/match games that even I have burned some measurable amounts of time and real cash in.

To me, the message is clear.  King has made its bed. How embarrassing would it be for King to release it’s flagship titles to Windows Phone only to be shrugged off by the Windows Phone app market for the effort?  Especially after trying to leverage its brand to strong-arm Windows Phone.  Frankly, a failure like that could put King’s position in the iPhone and Android ecosystems at risk… which would bring potential value down in the eyes of, say, Apple or Google.

I suspect there are other app publishers facing similar choices.  Perhaps they have likewise made their beds. I believe the Windows Unified platform is the platform that successful iPhone and Android publishers can’t afford to fail on.  Such publishers have two choices 1) get in before a competitor fills their niche, (and succeed), or 2) watch and miss out while realizing in ever more clear hindsight over next decade that Windows Unified was the opportunity they wish they hadn’t written off.

[Edit:  1/8/2015 – So King has published Candy Crush Saga to Windows Phone 8, now, and I’m very pleased to see it… it’s one less reason for folks to avoid the Windows Phone platform deciding to make the switch or not.   Will the Windows Phone edition be successful?   By many measures of an app on a platform, it already is.   Will it be the success it was on other platforms in reasonable comparison?   That remains to be seen, and I still think my analysis is correct, but I think that King still held out for Microsoft to offer up some form of subsidy…  I notice that Microsoft has been shelling out for ads for Minecraft, and in those same ad spaces are lots of ads for Candy Crush, as well.]

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Trading iPhone for Windows Phone – What You Give Up

As Jornata continues to integrate with BlueMetal, lots of things internally are coming together.  One of the things I’m loving is the internal dialog with the team that I’m now a part of at BlueMetal.  Our “geek chat” messaging reminds me of the best dialogs I’d been a part of at other companies, except amped. This isn’t coming from just any technology architect. These folks are well-known technology thought leaders, evangelists, and MVP’s. With sincere respect, I’ll try to avoid getting myself in trouble with them and BlueMetal, but I’m feeling a bit like a kid in a candy store.

Being the C#/mobile (and therefore Windows Phone) junkie that I am, I always watch what’s going on in the space. 

While the Windows Phone market share at BlueMetal is significantly higher than the general population, BlueMetal’s not just some extension of Microsoft.  There’s a lot of the team internally that are Apple and Android fans.   Naturally, when the news of Apple Watch broke, the conversation really picked up, and it was all fantastic stuff to consider.

One bit that came up that I wanted to write this post about, however, was a number of misconceptions that Apple fans had about Apple vs. “not Apple” in the smartphone area.  I can’t resist. There are good reasons to not consider Windows Phone, but some are just misunderstandings.

Here was a viewpoint:
————-
The things I would be giving up by switching [from iPhone] to Android or Windows Phone:

  1. iMessage 
  2. Photostream
  3. Find My iPhone
  4. My apps – the ones which I’ve already bought and the free ones which all work so well.  Windows phone doesn’t have the volume of Apps and Android doesn’t have the stability and polish
  5. iCloud backup
  6. iTunes – songs  I purchase are automatically downloaded to other iPhones and Macs
  7. Apple Watch
————-
 
The response was quick and, interestingly slanted in defense of Windows Phone… here’s a synopsis, including my own viewpoint:
  1. iMessage is platform specific, locking out non Apple users.   Consider Skype, Lync, or even Facebook Messenger instead.
  2. Photostream – Windows Phone has this functionality built into the OS, uploading photos to OneDrive.  (and OneDrive has working multi-factor authentication, so you won’t have to worry so much about selfies unexpectedly going viral.
  3. Find my Phone – yes, built into the Windows Phone OS… just a check box, and yes, it’s saved several of my family members more than once.
  4. Apps –  I have to admit, there’s no recovery for the investment made on iPhone/iPad apps, but there is this saving grace…  with Windows Unified apps, the app purchases you make on phone apps often entitle you to the same app for tablet and PC as well.   The marketplace is improving daily, so the general marketplace app gap is narrowing.  The Windows Phone app marketplace has better technical governance than Android’s, but not as mature as Apple’s, yet.
  5. iCloud backup – Windows Phone has OneDrive backups with much easier access to the content.
  6. iTunes – consider Xbox Music. With a low priced subscription, you can stream music to your phone, PC, tablet, and Xbox, and if you purchase or rip music, it makes it available thru the cloud to ask your devices… No need to sync your phone with a PC. Content just shows up.
  7.  Apple Watch?   Hard to say on this one… but I consciously traded my watch for a good smartphone long before iPhone came out.
Still others piped up and noted how well integrated Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 (and I would add Xbox)…  All of them work independently, but put them together, and you have a ton of really great ways to do things like manage your home network, participate in entertainment, and even keep your kids safe while browsing the ‘net.
 
In my opinion, Apple serves a few purposes…  they change folks’ minds about what technology is socially acceptable.  The industry needs them for their competition and for their tech fashion sense.
 
It seems clear to me that the net result is that by trading in an iPhone for Windows Phone, you give up some investment in Apple, but you gain quite a bit of functionality and security for doing so, especially if you’re also a Windows and/or Xbox user already.
Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

#RandomAppOfKindness #PayItForward #WPDev Challenge

Yesterday, I happened to be at the Panera Bread café down the road with my family.  We took a table next to a sign that boasted an iPhone / iPad app for the company.   Out of curiosity, I checked to see if there was a Windows Phone app…  the search in the app store turned up four apps, none of which had much to do with Panera Bread.  

On a hunch, I redirected my phone’s web browser to appstudio.windowsphone.com, and drafted a new project… a wrapper for Panera’s mobile site.   In minutes, I had used my phone to generate and sideload a brand new app.  I realized I could publish the app with only a few tweaks, and from the time I sat down to eat to the time this new Panera Bread app was certified & available for download only about two hours had passed.

I’ve decided to issue a challenge to the Granite State (NH) Windows Phone Users Group (and anyone else who wants to join in) to a “Pay it forward” style friendly ‘competition’.  

Whenever you see an app marketed for platforms other than Windows Phone, see if you can’t whip up a respectful/respectable presentation of an app that provides some approximation of the functionality advertised… for the Windows Phone platform… and publish it as a free app with no advertising or in-app purchases.  It should be a “gift” of sorts in honor of the subject.

Then feel free to let the folks who might be interested that they are subject to our #RandomAppOfKindness pay-it-forward activity. 

If the subject of your app complains of copyright issues, you may be required by copyright holders to remove the app…  and you should comply.  After all, this app was created and published out of good will.

Here’s my first #RandomAppOfKindness…
http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/panera-bread/2b1e2cd1-a440-4657-910d-a0eec15ecc5e

I’d love to turn this into a real competition… Perhaps in the future we’ll discuss crating a list of #RandomAppOfKindness apps and set a finish date to see who’s published the most qualified apps… but I don’t have a budget for that (as of yet)  🙂

Have fun!

Addendum:
Three new #RandomAppOfKindness entries since the Panera Bread app:

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Thoughts on the Surface Pro 3: One Device To Rule Them All

I never got in on the GPS craze… or pagers…  or the portable media player craze…  or the netbook thing…  or the ebook readers…  or even the tablet thing.  My first cell phone was the only non-smartphone I ever suffered.

As a technologist, I saw the serious value in combining devices… to the point where I decided that I would only ever carry one electronic device… a sufficiently powered, hand held computer for which I would have development tools.  My current oversized smartphone even suffices as a tablet, reader, and semi-connected third display for my PC.  

I now carry all of those individual fad items (and far more) as one unit.  Watches, GPS’s, pagers, portable media players, ebook readers… all fully redundant to the power of my contemporary smartphone… and I can (and do) write apps for it.   I will never waste resources buying smart watches or smart glasses… my smartphone offers just the right amount of accessibility and utility without needing yet more.

I have a similar relationship with my computer.  I have long struggled to find value in a game console.  Sure, there’s a nice Xbox One in my home now, but I definitely don’t log any significant time on it;  it really more or less belongs to my kids.  I have a PC…  The one and only thing it lacks for function is the ability to fold it up and take it with me… which is what I have a smartphone for.  (Yes, work provides me with a laptop, so as the some-time code warrior, I have a laptop that suffices as a desktop… but it’s definitely no tablet.)

I don’t feel I need the best in every technology, but a few things are very important to me in a PC.  I’ve long said I need visual bandwidth…  multiple displays are a must, and not just any.  The displays must have at least 1200 lines of height resolution… width only depends on aspect ration from there, and 4×3 and 16×9 describe the pair I have on my desk as I write this.   Touch would be nice for this, but I don’t have touch now…  I can survive without it.  As a software developer, having a display dedicated to my development tools and another dedicated to alternate info (communications, email, technical documentation, work queues, server desktops, or debug UIs) is a must.  The more I can see on the surface of a monitor, the less time I have to waste hunting for the window that has the info I need in it…  my PC is a content creation station.  I can still take advantage of my oversized smartphone to offload communications (email, video/teleconf/chat, music playlists, etc)  I could easily make use of more displays…  I just don’t physically have room for more on my desk.

My PC is more than just a PC… it’s a workstation.  A laptop won’t even suffice for it…  whenever I am reduced to working on my laptop alone, I feel constricted… like being forced to do detail level work while wearing a diver’s mask and welders gloves.  Work goes much better when I connect a full size keyboard, mouse and displays to the laptop in one form or another.

Of course, my workstation being my own actual personal computer, I also like to play games on it, and so it’s yet more than just a workstation… it’s also a game console.

Needless to say, it’s the things that a tablet can’t do that make a normal tablet superfluous to me.  Most importantly, I can’t fully replace my workstation/gamer console/PC with it…  If I can’t do that, it’s just another display that doesn’t fit on my desk… and I already have a phablet that satisfies my  portable computing needs…. anything more than that would only leave me wanting to just take my workstation with me everywhere.

When I go into Best Buy, or Staples or shop on Dell, I’m asking for a device that bridges the gap between the portability of a tablet, the creation-centricity of a workstation, and the gamer power of a console.  Worse, I get way more bang for the buck out of a desktop system than anything that even claims to be mobile, so replacing it with a mobile system that has close to the performance will be pricey. 

With the release of the Surface Pro 3, it’s very clear that Microsoft is hearing me, and fighting hard to do something about it.   I’m not sure it fully balances cost with my requirements, yet, but the Surface Pro 2 was tempting…   The 3 may get me to bite.   The ability to convert a tablet into a workstation and/or gamer console is definitely on track, plus it has some nice features that make it a better tablet than an iPad.  To match my current set of requirements, I would have to go with at least a mid-range (i5) unit.  The docking station would be a must.  If I kept my current non-touch, 2k display, using the tablet’s 2k display as well, it could finally be the tablet to bite on.  If I could find a good 4k touch enabled display for a reasonable price, that may be the clincher.

Is Surface Pro 3 a breakthrough product for you, or are you already rocking a more complete range of hardware?

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Feb 2014 Meetings for the Granite State NH Users Groups

Two things for the Granite State Users Groups for February 2014…

  1. The Granite State SharePoint Users Group will be meeting on a special night in a special place for a special speaker. Monday, Feb 10th, Daniel Webster College, Eaton Richmond Room 100, Joel Oleson will be presenting “Your Enterprise Social Journey”.  Alexander Technology Group will have the pizza hot at 6 PM, the presentation will begin at about 6:30.  Please RSVP (FREE) Here:  http://granitestatesharepoint.eventbrite.com
  2. The Granite State Windows Phone Users Group will be meeting at its regular date & location (6 PM, Microsoft Store in Salem, NH on February 20th), but our format will be a bit different from the normal.  Instead of a feature presentation, we’ll have an exercise in community app reviewing & rating.  This semi-dynamic RSS feed represents the list of apps known community published apps:  http://www.kataire.com/gswpug/gswpugservices.svc/getdata .  Please, bring your friends, phone(s), and RSVP for the meeting here:  http://granitestatewinphone.eventbrite.com

Hope to see you there!

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Aggregating Windows Phone Store Apps into RSS

Naturally, there’s an app for the Granite State NH Windows Phone Users Group.   🙂

I recently added the ability to aggregate listings from the Windows Phone app store to create a list of apps published by our members.  RSS seemed the natural way to present the info, since it was consumed easily by an App Studio app.

I showed it off a bit at the users group, and got a few requests for some of the code.

Once published, you should be able to go to http://{yourserver}/{optional}/GSWPUGServices.svc/GetData to load the RSS feed.

It’s currently published at http://www.kataire.com/GSWPUG/GSWPUGServices.svc/GetData

Here’s the project.

http://sdrv.ms/1cNYO9T