Tag Archives: Software

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Rescues the Desktop

Based on anecdotal evidence, I would say that I’m in the minority when I say that I love Windows 8 (and 8.1 even more). It’s not perfect, but using Windows 8 on my desktop and Windows 8 RT on my tablet has been great. I had a few things to learn, but since then things have gone well. As a side note, I don’t have anything against Windows 7 as it is fantastic as well. It’s just that the synchronization between desktops and browsers and the new touch controls have worked well.

Now that’s my own minority opinion. Most people are confused by the new Start screen on Windows 8. They find it difficult to close apps and they are somewhat disappointed by the lost mouse functionality (like right-clicking). That all changes next week with the release of Update 1 for Windows 8.1 (yes, that’s a mouthful). I had the opportunity to update both my tablet and desktop this week and it gives the mouse its power back. If you are using a tablet form factor (as defined by the manufacturer via a hardware id), then you’ll see only a few changes visually. For desktop users, you will now boot directly to the desktop instead of the Start screen. Not only that, you’ll be about to close Windows Store apps by clicking an “x” in the upper right corner of the app. On top of that, right clicks will now register in the Start screen to allow the resizing of tiles as well as pinning said apps to the Taskbar.

These changes should roll out to everyone running 8.1 on Tuesday next week (patch Tuesday). If you are still using version 8, then make sure you grab that update from the Windows App Store first. I don’t think the update will please everyone, but it should make a lot of desktop users very happy (or at least a little less mad). All in all, I’ll call that a win.

Sony Needs the PS4 to Win

There’s an ongoing battle between the PS4 and the Xbox One to decide the “winner” of the next gen consoles. The numbers so far put the PS4 ahead of the Xbox One by around a couple million devices. Microsoft’s console passed the 2 million mark last month and Sony just announced that the PS4 has sold over 5 million worldwide. Sony has a number of things going for it in the number war. The first thing is that it’s available in more countries. The Kinect’s language barrier has kept it out of several markets. The other thing is that it is $100 cheaper. So things are proceeding about how I expected with Sony taking an early lead.

I happen to have one of the Xbox One consoles and although I think it is a nice gaming console, if I had it to do over again I would have waited (and not that I would have gotten the PS4). I really expected Microsoft to ramp up the software side of things much faster. I’m not sure if this is a matter of focus or if it’s just a hard problem to solve, but clearly they are moving more slowly than I expected. For one, there aren’t a lot of Kinect titles out and this is the one area that they have the advantage. Secondly, they haven’t leveraged their ecosystem enough (their Live service has gotten mixed reviews). Neither system can play a 3D Blu-ray at the moment and I find that to be a pretty big omission (especially since that’s the only thing keeping my PS3 in the living room).

Console and ecosystem quality aside, Sony really needs the PS4 to win this generation. Given the poor performance of their TV business (being spun off as a separate division), PC business (in the process of being sold off) and a lackluster movie business, it’s important for them to bring in some cash. More than that, they are being marginalized as a player in the market and that has a tendency to work against you long-term (being the 2 ton gorilla has its advantages when negotiating). So in a world that is revolving around Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, Sony needs a win to stay relevant and in a practical sense to stay fiscally strong.

Microsoft really only needs to break even this generation (at least the first part of it). They have other businesses that are thriving (enterprise especially). They’ve got plenty of updates planned for the software side of the console and if they can stay in the game, then they’ll find ways to push their services through the device. So even if Sony wins the numbers game, Microsoft can still be considered as having “not lost” if they hold onto mindshare within their key markets (US in particular). With the new push for devices in the home (wearables especially), the software side of things (and the connectivity it will enable) is where the future is going to be won. At the moment, Sony is still executing and for the sake of competition I hope they do well.

Being Rewarded

Lumia 925This past week I got a nice surprise from the DVLUP program of Nokia. For developers that completed particular development challenges, we were given Nokia Lumia 925s. These are the same devices that are sold on AT&Ts site. I had written previously about the developer program and how I thought it was a great idea for developers on the Windows Phone platform. The same still applies.

I rarely charge for the software I write on the side. It usually not full featured enough to charge for anyway. I will say that it felt fantastic to get the phone as a reward. It definitely boosted my motivation. This totally makes my effort spent worthwhile (even though it doesn’t cover the cost of my time as a developer).

The device itself is very nice. It’s a bit slimmer and lighter than the Lumia 920, but it also doesn’t have wireless charging (which I love). I’m still trying to decide which one to carry on a daily basis. Regardless of that, the second device will be put to good use. I’m currently developing a shopping list app that uses cloud storage to share lists with others. The primary way of sharing a list with someone (making the initial connection) is by using NFC (phone bump).

Lots of great stuff to learn and even a few rewards along the way. If you know someone that is interested in developing, the DVLUP program is a great motivational tool. There even ways for non-programmers to build WP8 apps. The best way to get started is to just jump in.

Crazy State of Modern Computing

“Back when I was a kid, we didn’t have all of these little start-ups. We had a few big companies and that’s the way we liked it. We didn’t have all of these fancy shmancy operating systems either. No, we had Unix and Windows and that was just find with us.” ~ Grampa Sparky

I don’t want to sound too much like Grampa Sparky, but I feel like that sometimes. It used to be that anything you could call a computer could print to a printer (which printed on paper). These days many devices just don’t do that and no one really thinks twice about it. Who needs to print something, you just put your phone on the scanner or maybe just do the “phone bump thing”. The established standards of years past are just that (… in the past). Now there’s a new set of standards and metrics to determine what’s cool. It changes weekly and so don’t worry if you really don’t like it. Something new will be along soon.

Trying to print mailing labels this past weekend, I was somewhat disconcerted by the lack of real standards. It used to be that e-mail clients would just work. Now that your contacts are in the cloud, you just don’t have the clear and organized control that you had in the past. Now my collection of contacts is made up of a list of entries from four different sources (Outlook, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter), so trying to export the list to a database so that I can perform a mail merge in Word is a little more complicated. The fields aren’t always there and many times you just can’t get the data in the format that you need it. Hey, why have paper holiday cards these days? Well, I suppose that’s a good question but we’ll have to answer that next year. This year we are going to have holiday cards if it kills me (or whether my printer has to suffer some blunt trauma).

I don’t want to seem ungrateful for all of the advances, but I wouldn’t mind it if things standardized a little more. In all honesty, I don’t see there being any more clarity in the world of OSs for another five to ten years. The major players have enough money to stick it out for a while. So until then I’ll keep doing what I do now. I’ll just continue to code up new apps for what I can’t find in the store. BTW, next year I’ll use my new label printing app that I wrote this past weekend. It’s a great time to be a coder.

Nightime Programming

Even though I’m a developer during the day, I still love to program at night when I’m off work. I just build different types of applications. It’s one of my hobbies to build things that typically aren’t financially viable, but are still fun. A side benefit is that it also helps me to stay up on new technology (which is pretty important when you’re an old guy in my field).

Previously, I worked with PHP, JQuery and JavaScript, but recently I’ve moved over to mobile development. I built a simple iOS app and then an Android app, but neither really appealed to me (though Android was a little more interesting). Since I’ve moved over to a Windows Phone device (initially WP7 and now WP8 on a Nokia Lumia 920), it was a natural fit for me to start programming for it.

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