Category Archives: Product Reviews

windows-phone-7-logo

Windows Phone 7 App Gap




I am pretty into tech and gadgets, all kinds, mobile too. I have an iPhone (I’ve had all since 2G), Android (had a few, Dell Streak, Atrix 4g, now a Samsung Galaxy 4G), and Windows Phone (Samsung Focus WP7). People ask me about the differences between apps and devices and OS’s. Big thing with WP7 (which the OS is great), is the “App Gap”. I went through my iPhone and looked at the important apps, minus games, I use, and if there are equivalents on WP7. I downloaded them, etc, but made a list of ones that aren’t there yet. (interesting enough, I took notes for this post on OneNote from my WP7 device)




Apps Missing

  • Cisco VPN (yes, it’s a service, but it’s not really there on WP7)
  • Disqus – has api http://disqus.com/api/docs/
  • Flipboard
  • Google Plus
  • Hipporemote
  • Intonow
  • LogMeIn
  • Mint
  • Oink
  • Pandora
  • Path
  • PayPal
  • Posterous – has api http://posterous.com/api
  • PS express
  • Skype
  • Sportacular

Apps There But Not Official or Website only

  • Instagram (instacam)
  • Untappd (website)
  • Pinterest (Pinspiration)
  • YouTube (it is native but MSFT made and mobile website wrapper)
  • Tumblr (not free 3rd party)
  • LinkedIn (3rd party app)
  • Google Voice (GoVoice, GV for Windows Phone, etc)
  • Digg (Digg7, Digg Reader, etc)
  • Dropbox (some readers, etc)
  • Google Authenticator (some 3rd party apps)
  • Google Latitude (some crappy 3rd party apps)
  • Google Reader/reeder (some crappy 3rd party apps)
  • RDP Client – some 3rd party clients
  • VNC Client – 3rd party clients
  • TFS Clients – couple 3rd party clients
  • Google Translate – some 3rd party apps, Microsoft Translator, etc

As you can see, pretty big list. Many of the 3rd party apps just don’t cut it. Even some of the apps that are there, they just don’t compare to iOS or Android. Microsoft needs to overcome this App Gap to gain and/or stay relevant, in my eyes.



waze

Waze – Social GPS Navigation

This last week I have been using Waze on my iPhone. What is Waze? Well, it is a free “social” GPS turn by turn app. Since iOS doesn’t have built in turn by turn, it is left up to the market to fill the gap. There are the big players out there TomTom, etc but then Waze comes along. I have heard/read about them for a while now, but never got around to trying it. Pretty cool. Nice interface, and it’s social.

How is it social? Well, people can report slowdowns, accidents, police, etc and it will show up on your map as you drive. You can see other wazer’s on the map as you drive. They also gamify it by giving you points for miles and little rewards when you hit milestones, pretty cool. Works for me. The product becomes better as more people use it, and I assume as your friends or groups you are in use it more.

Check it out at waze.com Looks like they have apps for more than iOS as well.



reader

Google Reader Changes

As anyone who uses Google Reader knows already. They have changed. They changed for the worse. Design is somewhat horrible, removed features, etc. Sharing is not there anymore. You can +1 and then Share to G+. Ability to share to an RSS feed is gone. After using Google Reader for like 4 years and reading 10k items a month, it is jarring to see things just removed. Not sure what they were thinking.

Are there alternatives? Some readers out there, yes, but most already use Google Reader for the backend. What I am looking at doing is utilizing the “Send To” functionality on a post. You can set up some default Send To’s, or a custom one. Most likely a Posterous link blog/RSS feed type thing.

Otherwise? On the Mac, iPhone, iPad – use Reeder. Not sure what “Share” does at this point in that app. On windows, stick to the browser and utilize “Send To”. You will notice it under Reader Settings, in a Send To tab. The ability to add custom send to’s is what is interesting. As long as they leave that feature in the product as well.

What are your thoughts on the changes?



yammer

Yammer: Transparency in Enterprise Project Communication

Recently I attended the Gartner Infrastructure and Operations conference in Orlando, and one of the main points they kept bringing up was “social” in the enterprise, how your IT Ops groups can use it to communicate, Yammer was at the forefront here (and SharePoint).

I have been a proponent of Yammer for some time. At work, I actually created our Yammer instance back in September 2008. Although it hasn’t taken off as I’d hoped, it has made some people think. Coming from a tech company in MN to a bike manufacturer, you can’t expect leading edge technical things to take off too fast, have to set expectations, was just kind of waiting for the right time to see how we could really use it.

Recently, on a software project we have, I was thinking on how to “up” the level of communication between team members, but also keep things transparent so everyone who wanted to could “drink from the firehose” so to speak. Tons of communication happens on IM and Email, phone, face to face. All those have their place and are needed, but they are all mediums in which people are left out.

Face to Face, usually is more personal and unless it is a huge conference or meeting, not everyone can hear or be there, and things get lost or no notes are taken. Same with phone. Email, things get saved, but people are left off and not everyone is included. Many small questions or items to communicate aren’t even sent to avoid email overload. IM is good for one on one quick questions and information sharing, but once again, it gets lost and isn’t saved for anyone else to see.

In comes Yammer. Create a group, and then say “everything to do with the project, communicate it here”, and see what happens. Well, tons of info comes pouring out. Things that were maybe a conversation or IM/Email between two people are now open for the group to see and other people can add their voice to the conversation, or just be aware of the issue. Things you might previously emailed or IM’d, throw them on Yammer. Is there really any reason any project based communication that isn’t of a personal nature can’t be there for the group?

Start using #hashtags, and you start building a knowledge repository. Upload images, files for more info.

Now, you might say, “Well I am going to get Yammer overload!” yes, that may happen. Turn it into a daily digest instead of emails on every post. Hit the site now and then throughout the day. If you really want to get someone’s attention, @ them and make sure you/they have the setting to get alerting on a @ to them, either through IM/SMS or email.

Things to watch out for? Gotta make sure you dump messages to your group, not the main feed, or you end up clogging up people’s feeds. Also, install the desktop app for a better experience.

Can using Yammer lead to more transparency on your project? I believe it can. Try it out, and see what it does for you.

I find this.. exhilarating.



Google TV

Basic review here. Setup was easy. Software ok. Browsing web is cool. If you don’t have cable you are somewhat out of luck. You need an hdmi source to do the more cool things like search and watch “TV” at the same time.

Interested in where it will go with honeycomb. As of now it’s a glorified Netflix, Amazon video, YouTube player. Comparable to Roku. I’d say apple tv beats it by a mile, especially if you’ve bought into the apple ecosystem with iOS and iTunes, etc

Blogged from my iPhone



logo-office-365

Moving to Office 365 from Google Apps: Follow Up

Earlier I blogged about Moving to Office 365 from Google Apps, and some of my woes.

In the time since, things have been straightened out. First off, what happened to me sucked, but was resolved. I think Microsoft knows they have some initial bugs and they will work it out. What does stand out is that the customer service is top notch. Their forum moderators replied. Their twitter account @Office365 replied. They actually CALLED me and walked through fixing the issue. This was great. They made sure it was working before leaving me hanging.

After I got the issues resolved, I switched my GoDaddy DNS to MSFT DNS name servers and away we go. I reset up my iPhone, iPad syncing with my new Office365 stuff, worked great, found the server url, etc. Android I had to type it in (to find it, log into web mail and go to about off the help icon). I set it up with Outlook 2010 and it works great. Also Mail.app on Mac, works great there too.

I haven’t done much more than just use it. Some things I miss or want? First, in Gmail, you can archive mail right from iOS. Exchange doesn’t have this, but in Outlook you can set up quick steps to do it, so I did that. The OWA interface doesn’t have quick steps, which would be nice. I haven’t used Lync yet as I don’t have anyone to talk to on it, I will dork around with that later. Haven’t used the SharePoint or Office Web Apps yet, it has been more Mail, Contacts, Calendar to start.

I would like to point my mail.domain.com to the Office365 portal for easy access, haven’t looked into it yet.

One other thing I noticed, is that some mail still comes to my old Google Apps account. Facebook mail alerts for sure. They might have a slow DNS change time as most all other mail comes to Office365. More to come as I get into things though.



Kindle front - graphite-thumb

Amazon Kindle Support is Best Ever

For my birthday, Emily and Ella got me a Kindle. And yeah, Kindle rocks. Not just the device, but I have been using it for iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC since it came out. To top it off the device rocks as well, I like that it works outside in the sun the most, and the battery life is stellar. Even as the iPad is “one app” at a time device, really, the Kindle device is “one app” in a device, and it lets you focus. I have read like 8+ books so far this year.

I recently got home from a trip, and finished a book. After shutting down the Kindle, I noticed a blotch on the screen. WTF? I keep it in a case and haven’t dropped it or anything. So I call Amazon Kindle customer service. They ask me about it, really just what happened and in 1 minute they are sending me a new Kindle and instructions and prepaid postage to send the other one back. I get the new one, it is already registered to me, and I am on my way. I was flabbergasted at how good the support was, you don’t get it or see it everyday. Kudos Amazon.



windows

Thoughts on Windows 8 Details

Yesterday at All Things D, Microsoft announced Windows 8 (codename of course) details, and a first glimpse on video
 

Windows 8 Video #1

My initial reactions to this, as a consumer and as a development manager of an app that at this time is completely windows desktop .NET based:

HTML5/JS Apps

First reaction? Why not just use a browser? and How are they going to interact with the OS? What level’s of rights will they have to read/write file system, etc, etc. Also, what happens to Silverlight? C++/Winforms apps? Yeah they show old apps running “behind” the new UI, but what is MIcrosoft’s stance on development of these other technologies? WPF? They have told devs to build using these tech’s for desktop for years, now, lets go HTML5/JS? WTF? Will apps run in browser too? On a mac? iOS?

Tiles

First reaction? Looks like an exploded Windows Phone UI, WP7. Which at first blush looks cool but I have found usability to be painful. Seems to be more of a shell UI on top of Windows 7 (or whatever). They should call it Windows Blinds Smile

In General

I think that this will be a good refresh for the OS, but it might take a few iterations for this new UI to be used heavily. My take? Users will get the OS installed and (hopefully there will be an option to) turn off the new UI and go back to what they have used for years. Slowly but surely the new UI will take hold with some cool apps and more and more people will use that and get used to it, abstracted away from the core OS explorer, etc.

Looking forward to trying it out in beta, and when it goes live. I will give MSFT this, they keep things changing so devs have to keep learning! Oh yeah, and PDC is no longer, it is now BUILD – http://www.buildwindows.com/



Winforms DevExpress Grid

In the current agile sprint for the dev team I manage, we decided to start replacing ListViews (custom ones at that) and grids with the XtraGrid from DevExpress.

Now, normally I shy away from 3rd party controls, or want to vet them, but I knew there was no way we could do the same functionality in the default grid in .NET. One of the guys on the team did a story the sprint before to do a proof of concept comparing various grids and showing the pros and cons. DevExpress came out ahead, functionality and performance.

What we are seeing now is huge gains. We can use the new grid and functionality we couldn’t even begin to think of, is there by default. Grouping, searching, filtering, FAST performance, print preview and formatting, etc, etc, etc. Tons of options.

In fact, there are TOO many options. It makes it hard for us to digest all the possibilities in what we want to turn off, or how to integrate with existing forms, etc. A good problem to have.

All I know, is if you are doing any serious .NET work (Winforms, WPF, even Web/Silverlight) – it might make some sense to take a look at DevExpress. Focus on your business rules and integrating other parts of your systems, not reinventing the wheel with a crazy custom grid.

In the coming months I will try to talk about other areas that you can “outsource” to 3rd parties, where it makes sense. (And no, I don’t get anything from DevExpress for this post. Just calling it how I see it).



Windows Phone – Samsung Focus

Picked up a Samsung Focus yesterday, device only, no contract. Testing it out. Going to do some development and what not. More to come on this front, but after using it for the first few hours..

1. Can’t connect to hidden wifi networks.

If you have your wireless network hidden, you are out of luck, you need to have the SSID broadcast

2. Facebook Sync doesn’t work (or work well) when you have Facebook account settings set to HTTPS

I can see this happening right now as Facebook just turned that on recently and the phone doesn’t know how to handle, but it should.

3. It’s light.

Can hardly feel it in my pocket

4. I like the UI but seems very “jumpy”

seems like you bounce around a lot.

Other than that, still getting to know it. I haven’t moved my SIM card over yet (btw, the iPhone 4 is a mini SIM, so you need an adapter), but I might, we will see.