ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

11” Tablet is Bigger Than 17” Notebook

1/10/2013 5:26:09 PM

TL;DR – jump directly to the explanation of the title to skip the pre-story.

So here’s the deal. I spend 95%+ of my “computing” time at my desk in the office. Let’s say 4% consuming content at home on a tablet (or a shared living room PC) and 1% on the road with a laptop. That 1% forces me not to own a notebook. On the other hand I use that notebook so rarely that it would be a waste of money and it’d be always “out of date” when I need it. So here’s my setup today:

WP_20130107_001

Ever since Windows 8 was announced I was dreaming about replacing that laptop with a powerful tablet. My thesis was that since I use that table keyboard 1% of the time there’s no need for it to collect the dust on my desk. Most people found that to be a weak reason to suffer with a Bluetooth keyboard in that 1%. Oh, well. I still wanted that tablet/PC. I wanted to take a lighter (even though that ASUS ultrabook is pretty light) tablet home, sacrifice nothing at work and didn’t mind using external keyboard in rare occasions when I need the full notebook experience.

V700-photo-gallery-04Windows 8 arrived and it seemed like most OEMs shared the vision that there’s no need for a really reasonably powerful tablet/PC. The only device that even remotely satisfied my thesis was Acer Iconia W700.

Unfortunately it was quite substantially underpowered: Core i5 max, 4gb of RAM max, 128gb SSD max. Additionally its docking station has only USB and power cord ports. You still need to plug your monitor, headphones, etc. separately when you bring it from home.

So I was waiting for someone to come up with a similar but more advanced model (or Acer to introduce higher end versions of W700).

Then at CES Lenovo introduced ThinkPad Helix:

This is full power (to a reasonable extent) PC and a tablet. Perfect! Even though it doesn’t address my “dust thesis”. One of the “crazy” features of the Helix is that you can detach it’s “head”, use it as tablet or attach it backwards like this:

ThinkPad-Helix-Convertible-Tablet-PC-Stand-View-2L-940x475

Many people got excited about the Helix but I haven’t seen anyone excited about this “backwards” mode. Tim Danton at PC Pro writes:

It’s harder to be convinced by Lenovo’s claims that there’s a genuine advantage from one of the Helix’s key features: that you can “rip and twist” the screen so the screen faces in the opposite direction to the keyboard.

… I’m doubtful as to how often most people will want to do this, but I’m happy to be corrected …

Most people on Twitter didn’t get it either:

My explanation was that my laptop keyboard just stands between me and the notebook’s monitor for no reason. Then I had another idea and did a little experiment:

WP_20130107_002

What you see here is 10” Surface RT placed at the front edge of my 13” laptop and photographed from my usual sitting position. It’s not difficult to see that the Surface fully covers notebook’s screen. I’ve calculated that a 9.2” tablet would be virtually bigger as a second monitor than a 13” laptop.

By the same logic (and math) 11.6” Helix placed at the front edge of a 15.6” random Lenovo laptop would have a screen virtually comparable to a 17.3” monitor attached to the end edge of said laptop. Here’s a diagram:

11vs17

So there you have it. Hopefully I didn’t mess up the math, but the diagram which is done more or less at scale confirms my calculations.

Is it a reason enough for me to get excited about the Helix and its “odd feature”?

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Outlook.com is great, but ...

1/7/2013 8:04:53 PM

outlookcom

I’ve recently switched my personal email account from Gmail to Outlook.com. I’ve been using Outlook.com for several weeks now and I really like it. I’ll need some time to figure out if it’s really great or was I just wowed by its slickness. On the surface it feels nicer, faster, more natural when navigated with keyboard, etc. But that’s another story.

This post is about one “feature” that made its way from Hotmail to Outlook.com. It’s the thing I hated the most in Hotmail. I complained to support about it like 3-4 years ago and got a response that, no, it’s not possible to switch this feature off. It’s been several years since then, a new UI, a new domain, a new name but this ridiculous feature is still there and you still can’t turn it off.

That feature is a popup (you can see it at the bottom of the screenshot above) offering you to collect your emails from another account into your Outlook.com. The email address in question is the one I use as my Microsoft Account (formerly know as Live ID). It’s not a @hotmail.com or @live.com or @outlook.com address. There’s no real mail box behind it so I can’t set it up to make this dialog shut up. And even if I could, what if I just don’t want to?

You can close this dialog, but the next time you visit Outlook.com it will pop up again. How difficult could it be to make a way to disable this “feature” permanently? I don’t have any hope of getting it fixed via official support channels so the only thing left is bitching on the internet. So here you go, I’ve bitched. I can now return to the regular things. Right after I click that “Close” button and swear.

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Apps I use on my Surface

1/3/2013 8:49:55 PM

WP_000898

I’ve been using Microsoft Surface with Windows RT for 2 months now. I was lucky to get one at the Build conference and while I still think a dedicated tablet doesn’t have a place in my life, but since I already got it I’ve been using it and warmed up to the idea a little.

Surface is not perfect, user experience is not perfect, but it improved pretty dramatically over the past 2 months and it gets updates frequently. There’s no need to post another Surface review, so rather than doing that I decided to cover the apps I’ve been using on it.

I’m not going to cover built-in apps. Most of them are pretty basic at best. I’ll only cover apps that I’ve installed from the store. And I’ve downloaded a lot of them. But I’ll only list the apps I actually use regularly.

The order is pretty random and is based on the order of these apps on my start screen. Prices are for US store as of January 3rd, 2012. Screenshots are linked to the store.

Tweetro+ ($4.99, no trial)

tweetro

Whatever I do on the Surface I usually have Tweetro+ snapped to the side. Conceptually I may like Metrotwit better, but as far as polish goes, Tweetro+ is the best Twitter client on Windows 8/RT at the moment.

Skype (free)

skype

Well, Skype is Skype. Not much to add here. It was very raw when Surface was released but it got an update or two since then and is pretty fine now.

ICQ (free)

icq

Old habits die hard and I still have a few friends with ICQ as our primary communication channel.

Nextgen Reader ($2.99 with unrestrained trial)

nextgen_reader

Arguably the best RSS reader at the moment with two way sync with Google Reader. It has some stability issues and a few other quirks which hopefully will be addressed soon (I’m going to send my list to the developers). Nothing major though and it’s safe to say Nextgen Reader is my second most used app after Tweetro.

HackerNews Reader ($1.49 with ad supported unrestricted trial)

hackernews_reader

Well, the name says it all. I didn’t research if HackerNews Reader is the best, but for an occasional user like me it does the job just fine.

OneNote (free)

onenote

While it doesn’t do everything its desktop counterpart does, it’s pretty close. It also features a really innovative and well thought out UX unlike some other Microsoft apps (Mail, I’m looking at you!). OneNote is a living proof that pretty complex Metro apps can be done and can be a joy to use.

Trello (free)

trello

Official Trello app does a great job as the Metro companion for the Trello web app. Even though it doesn’t do everything the web app does, it definitely looks better ;) And in case you don’t know what Trello is, in their own words “Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process.”

Calculator2 (free)

calculator2

Strangely enough Windows 8/RT comes without a bundled Metro calculator. Calculator2 was one of the first apps to fill the gap and it does it pretty well for my needs that I never had a need to look for anything else. Plus it uses AdDuplex which doesn’t hurt either ;) If for some reason you look for alternatives check out Calculator X8 made by Gergely Orosz.

Timer & Stop Watch (free)

timerandstopwatch

We always tend to go over time on AppBizDev podcast so I needed a simple way to track time. I’ve tried quite a few stopwatch apps and this one was the simplest and does exactly what I need it to do.

NovaMind Mind Mapping (free + feature IAPs (up to $14.99))

novamind

Mind mapping is a fancy way to replace bulleted lists when brainstorming, taking notes etc. NovaMind is the best app, imho, to do that on the Surface. The core app is free and lets you do all the basic stuff. You can buy extra features ranging from saving to SkyDrive to checkboxes to extra themes.

PrimeTube (free)

primetube

PrimeTube is a really nice YouTube client. One of the reasons you want a YouTube client is that it keeps playing when you switch to some other app (unlike Internet Explorer). The only issue I have with PrimeTube is that it doesn’t play fullscreen when in Filled mode (with other app snapped to the side of the screen).

mobile.HD Media Player ($3.49 with time limited trial)

mobilehd

It’s no secret that the default video player is not able to play your absolutely legally obtained MKV video files ;) That’s where mobile.HD Media Player comes in. So far it was able to play everything I’ve thrown at it. It also plays the files over the network. I didn’t do exhaustive testing though, but as far as I can tell, I have no real-life need for the much hyped VLC player at the moment.

Fresh Paint (free)

freshpaint

Fresh Paint is a finger (stylus?) painting app from Microsoft. A couple of ugly paintings I’ve used in earlier posts were made with it.

Files&Folders (free)

filesfolders

Files&Folders is a nice file manager. Not that I need it too often, but when I do it’s a way more touch friendly way to manage files than Windows Explorer.

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That’s it. Do not hesitate to suggest better alternatives to what I use or other great apps in the comments.

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What’s wrong with Music and Podcasts in Windows Phone 8

1/2/2013 7:06:55 PM

7more8

I love Windows Phone 8, all the new features it brings and this Nokia Lumia 920 phone. That said there’s one area that degraded so much from Windows Phone 7.x that it makes me really sad. To make things worse it’s not some obscure area that no one ever uses. It’s the part of the system that I use every single day. It’s music and podcasts.

It may not be as painful to those who used these features on WP7 differently from how I used them. For some it maybe even worse though, because Podcasts for some wildly inexplicable reason are only available to users in US (I use my phone in US “mode”).

So here’s a list of things that bother me. You may have your own list or I may have missed something that would make my life easier. In this case, please, let me know in the comments.

Music

  1. Sync. I don’t feel the need to have my whole music collection on the phone. I mostly listen to music on the phone when driving. I listen and “discover” music on my PC. So I had a “current” playlist and gradually added (or removed) songs to it in Zune (PC) and it was set to sync with my WP7. That’s it. Worked like a charm.

    Zune knows nothing about WP8, Xbox Music on Windows 8 knows nothing about WP8, Windows Phone app doesn’t know much about Xbox Music, Windows Media Player knows nothing about Xbox Music DRM, Windows Phone desktop sync application can (manually) sync playlist from PC to phone but some (all?) DRMed songs refused to play on the phone. I may need to play more with that sync app, but it’s definitely not going to be as seamless as it was with Zune until something more fundamental changes.
  2. wp_ss_20130102_0001Cloud music. The [theoretically] cool feature of Xbox Music on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 is that the music you get on your PC shows up in your library on the phone. The actual files are not downloaded to the phone. They just appear as “links” to the cloud. So when you play the music it’s streamed over whatever data connection you happen to be using. As I mentioned, I mostly listen to music on the phone while driving so it uses my mobile data connection. Now I don’t know about global mobile data situation, but my understanding is that unlimited data plans are not widely available and are actually on the decline (at least in US). And honestly, I don’t want to pay more for data to get an unlimited data plan. Especially to listen to music that I’ve already downloaded to my PC.

    So I thought I’ll just copy the album I wanted to listen to the phone and it’ll play locally. Little did I know that it’ll play the same songs twice – once from the local storage and once from the cloud. So as far as I understand at this point you either have to go download the same music twice – once on the PC and once on the phone, or you just disable the “cloud music” on the phone and copy the files.

Podcasts

Here’s a part of Windows Phone 8 FAQ admitting there’s something terribly wrong with podcasts on WP8 if Microsoft is “forced” to recommend using iTunes!

▼How can I get my podcasts on my phone?

There are a couple of ways to get podcasts, but not with the Windows Phone app. The first way is to get them from the Store on your phone. If you'd prefer to get them from your PC, you can download them in iTunes, then use the Windows Phone app for desktop (beta) to sync them to your phone. To learn more, see Sync with my Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC.

So here’s my list for podcasts:

  1. Sync. I know many people don’t see this as an issue since they didn’t use podcasts this way on WP7 either, but I used to subscribe to podcasts on the PC (in Zune) and then autosync them to phone whenever it’s plugged into the PC (which is for 8-12 hours every day).

    What are the benefits of this? 1) you can easily mark multiple episodes as played (more on this later); 2) you can finish listening an episode on your PC (it autosynced position); 3) you can force a check for new episodes (more on this later); 4) you can subscribe to podcasts via RSS.

    I know that most of these issues were identical on the phone side in WP7, but they were mitigated by my use of Zune to manage podcasts.
  2. wp_ss_20130102_0002Sort order. It’s not about sort order itself. It’s about sorting by oldest being unusable for any podcast with a sizeable history and sorting by newest being quite an odd experience when you are not 100% done with all of the episodes when a new one comes out.

    When you sort by oldest you get the whole history of the podcast as unplayed until you mark all of the old episodes as played. And you have to do it one episode at a time (unless I missed something).

    Sorting by newest doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Maybe only if you choose to store one latest episode only and delete the older episode independently of it’s played status. If you choose to keep more than one episode you’ll end up listening to the newest episode when you hit the play button next to the podcast even if you were only half way through the previous one. So to have any sort of reasonable listening order you have to monitor the progress yourself and manually pick an episode you want to listen to.
  3. Manual refresh. The podcast service/app on the phone chooses when to check for new episodes based on some black box algorithm. It’s very annoying when you know for a fact that the new episode of your popular show is out but it’s not yet on your phone for some reason. The only workaround I know is unsubscribing and resubscribing to the podcast which is annoying, looses listening history, etc.
  4. Podcasts from store only. There’s no way to add podcasts other than looking them up in the store. I guess that’s the reason why podcasts are a US-only feature. In any case not every podcast in the world is listed in the Zune store. And it’s going to get worse since there’s no equivalent for the podcast part of Zune on Windows 8.

Even though it was a pretty long post, I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten to mention. I really hope that situation changes as soon as possible. I assume the podcast situation can be somewhat resolved by using a 3rd party app. Which one is your favorite? As far as music goes, I wouldn’t want to drop the Xbox Music Pass, so I hope to find ways to make it work the way I want.

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Best books I’ve read in 2012

12/31/2012 4:53:00 PM

alans books 2012

I’ve just counted the books I’ve read in 2012 and apparently there are only 12 of them (14 if you count the one started in 2011 and one I’m still reading). Somehow I thought there will be more and I managed to promise myself to read at least 10 non-fiction books in 2013.

Considering I’m a pretty slow reader (and a pretty fast fall-asleeper when reading) that’s going to be a challenge. But I accept it!

Anyway here are a few of the best books I’ve read in 2012. Nothing too sophisticated so don’t judge! ;)

Disclaimer: links to these books include my referral code so I’ll make a few cents if you buy any of them via these links. The “funds” will go towards my reading in 2013.

Fiction

  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I think this is the first Stephen King book I’ve ever read and it’s awesome. It includes just a little of “fantasy” stuff and I love this kind of book. The story revolves around a guy from our times who finds a “portal” to a specific date in the past and goes on a mission to save Kennedy.
  • Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn. I’ve stomped over this book while writing a blog post on Kindle book pricing, liked the description and bought it despite the ridiculous pricing. The book is written as “merged” diaries of husband and wife (one chapter from wife’s diary, next from husband’s, etc.) One day the wife goes missing and sh*t hits the fan. At first I thought the writing style was a little “pretentious” but then I got used to it and really enjoyed the book. Definitely buying the other 2 Gillian Flynn books.
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I’m not a fan of Sci-Fi but this one is considered a classic so I decided to read it and I can attest that this book is great. That said I’m still not of a fan of the genre and I’m not reading the other 4 books in the series.

Non-fiction

I’ve only read 2 of the Malcolm Gladwell’s books this year: Outliers: The Story of Success and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Amazon categorizes the first one as Cultural Anthropology and the second one as Decision-Making & Problem Solving which I think is pretty accurate. Outliers is about “why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential?” and Blink analyzes the way we make snap decisions. Both highly recommended.

I’m also 30% into Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely and it’s really interesting so far.

And that’s basically it. I’ve read some more filler fiction to clear my head before sleep, but nothing else stood out for me over this year.

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AdDuplex Gift Coupons for Your Developer Friends

12/19/2012 2:49:38 PM

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Do you have Windows Phone or Windows 8 developer friends? One of the best holiday gifts you can give them is some extra exposure for their apps. That’s what AdDuplex gift coupons are fore.

There are 3 types of coupons:

  • $15/5,000 impressions
  • $50/20,000 impressions (list value $60)
  • $100/20,000 impressions (list value $200)

That’s an easy and valuable present for your geek friends.

Buy AdDuplex gift codes here.

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Shifts Calendar apps for Windows Phone

12/18/2012 7:34:54 PM

My wife works in shifts. Randomly distributed over a month. Every month she gets a sheet of paper with a list of shifts in a table with other people. What I usually did was take a picture of that list and then look through it trying to figure out her schedule for today/tomorrow. This isn’t difficult but pretty inconvenient. So for a month or so I was musing about doing a personal hackathon to make an up to do that more conveniently.

Does your idea pass a “Google test”?

Well, this app was never meant to be a business, because I always thought it’s too niche. That’s why I never thought it could exist and never bothered to search for an app like this. But as they say “there’s an app for that”. Even for something you think only you and 2 other people need. So I finally stopped procrastinating and did a search for “shifts calendar”

image

The funny thing is that I either didn’t find SaTurnos when I did the search on the phone or missed it because the name and tile didn’t catch my eye. So I’ll only cover the remaining 3 in this post.

My requirements

I had 2 must-have requirements:

  1. easy to enter shifts – I don’t want to spend half an hour to enter the shifts.
  2. live tile – I want it to be easier to check the shift with this app than to look it up in the photo, way easier.

There are a few things that would be nice-to-have but I can live without them, namely

  • export to [real] calendar
  • share the data file with other copies of the app (wife’s, daughter’s, etc.)

Choosing an app

shiftscalendarHere’s a brief look at my thought process when choosing one of the 3 apps.

First of all only one of the 3 apps had trial – ShiftCalendar

Since it was only one of the 3 that had a trial it was an obvious choice to try first without even going through description or reviews. Glance at the screenshots and instant download. At this point, if it satisfied my requirements it would be over for the other 2. Can’t understand why would anyone decide not to do a trial or a free version with upsell/IAP/ads.

Anyway. Unfortunately 2 other apps got a chance because ShiftCalendar failed both of my requirements. Entering shifts is relatively painful – for every day it opens a windows to select a shift. You can select multiple dates for the same shift and then set it. Still a little suboptimal, imho. Moreover it only lets you pick a color for the shifts so you end up with a colorful calendar where you have to remember which shift each color represents. Probably easy after a few days of use, but still an odd decision. And no live tile.

So, as I said, only the fact that it didn’t satisfy my requirements gave the other 2 a chance. Since they didn’t have trial I had to read their descriptions and reviews relatively carefully.

shiftworkcalendarFirst was Shift Work Calendar. The screenshots looked nice and feature list impressive. The app has way more than I need, even though it doesn’t have any of my nice-to-have features. That said it has an export to image feature which on one hand is better looking and easier to digest and share than the original sheet of paper, but on the other hand screenshot feature on Windows Phone 8 basically renders this a non-feature.

So the calendar looks nice, entering shifts is easy (even though I envisioned a better input UI for my imaginary app) and live tile is listed and showcased on one of the screenshots.

With everything looking pretty good one “feature” threw me off completely and made me buy the other app first and I only bought Shift Work Calendar after I decided to do this review.

That “feature” is:

30 page user guide downloadable from the help page.

 

Seriously! This is the reason I chose the other app. That and the fact that some people in the reviews mentioned this “feature” as something you would need to figure out how to use this app. And I actually had to reread the description (managed to do without the user guide) to get a hint on how to get the life tile to work since it didn’t work on the main tile (you need to go to calendars, select a calendar you want to pin and press the edit button (pencil) and there you’ll find a button to pin it).

The tile looks a little washed out (probably due to the fact it was made for WVGA displays) but otherwise displays all the essential information – today’s shift on the front and tomorrow’s shift on the back.

shiftwerkSo this brings us to the third app and the first one I’ve bought – Shiftwerk. The app looks pretty good, even though I prefer the look of Shift Work Calendar. The data entry is pretty much identical to Shift Work Calendar and is fine with me. Like ShiftCalendar it only shows shifts via colors in the calendar, though. That said if you tap on the date you see the details under it. Another thing is that it always uses Sunday as the first day of the week and doesn’t pick it up from your regional settings and doesn’t have a setting to set the first day manually.

Live tile worked “right out of the box”, looked crisp and it didn’t require reading a 30 page manual ;) Unfortunately, though, there’s one major flaw with the live tile for me. It show the next shift. Meaning that if you work say from 2pm to 8pm today it will start showing tomorrows shift after 2pm. This is probably fine if you are the one working in shifts – you would probably know that you are at work at 3pm. But since I need it to know someone else’s shifts it doesn’t work for me. If 3pm was the first time I decided to check it I will have no idea if today was a day off, first shift or second shift. Not a super-major issue but still a minus in my book.

So it looks like I will be using Shift Work Calendar after all, but I’m keeping all of them pinned at least until the end of the month to see if I’ve missed something. Here’s how they look pinned:

wp_ss_20121218_0001

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So $30 Android phone is a PC, but a Smart TV isn’t?

12/12/2012 6:37:56 PM

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Numerous online (and probably offline) publications covered Internet Trends presentation by Mary Meeker from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers. Judging from the slides it was really interesting and I’d love to see a video of it, but …

Most sites used the above slide as the main takeaway from it and cited the numbers as the biggest reveal of that presentation. I haven’t heard the comments accompanying this chart, so I’m having a hard time understanding what does it represent?

Does “Apple” include OS X and iOS on iPad, iPhone, iPad Touch, Apple TV? Does Android represent Android tablets, phones, cameras, etc.? Judging from the fact that Android’s chart starts in 2007, I would guess that all of them are counted in. Are all of these PCs or PC replacements?

Let’s say we consider the cheapest and crappiest Android phone a PC. This sounds absurd, but OK. But If we do, then why “smart TVs” are not on this chart? Why not eInk readers? Why no Xbox or PS3 or Wii? Why no Sega Mega Drive (or whatever) in the middle of that chart?

I’m pretty sure Amazon has sold a substantial amount of “classic” (non Fire) Kindles to warrant a place on this chart. And Samsung alone expects to sell 25 million smart TVs in 2012. So why don’t we count them in?

You may say these are not PCs and I’ll agree with you. Android based camera isn’t a PC either. And even a mid range Android phone that was never used for anything but phone calls is not a PC. So what constitutes a “Personal Computing Platform” in this chart and what doesn’t?

I’ve definitely watched more YouTube videos on my smart TV than I did on my phone. I did more “internet commerce” (bought ebooks) on my Kindle 3 than I did on any of other devices except for PC. So what makes these devices non-PCs but, say, HTC Magic a PC?

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Android. But I do have a problem with this chart and the idea of using it to make ANY conclusions. It’s just a pointless piece of infographic created to deliver some message.

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Deciphering Nokia’s Model Names

12/4/2012 6:33:33 PM

Windows Phone SDK v.7.1 introduced a class called DeviceStatus with a property called DeviceName which returns a model name of the device your app is running on. There were some variations and discrepancies with what different devices returned, but overall it was quite fine in the Windows Phone 7 world.

For reasons unknown to me Nokia decided that this was too good and their new Windows Phone 8 devices return model numbers like RM-820_nam_att_100, RM-821_eu_turkey_343, RM-845_nam_vzw_100, RM-821_eu_russia_216, RM-821_eu_finland_207, etc. As you can see all these “model names” include letters RM followed by some internal model number and then country/region and a mobile operator. Update: I’ve got a tip that the actual structure is <RM-Code>_<Region>_<Variant ID>

I was unable to find a single list that would decipher these model names so I’ve decided to compile my own by looking up each model number I’ve seen individually. So here goes:

  • RM-820 and RM-821 are Lumia 920
  • RM-824, RM-825 and RM-826 are Lumia 820
  • RM-845 is Lumia 822 (exclusive to Verizon in US)
  • RM-878 is Lumia 810 (exclusive to T-Mobile in US)

I’ve also seen RM-867 but couldn’t find what this stand for.

Things are a little better with HTC. They report “Windows Phone 8X by HTC” most of the time. Except for Verizon version where they decided to report “HTC6990LVW” instead.

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Ode and a [slow] farewell to Twitter

11/26/2012 7:48:45 PM

“Facebook is for people you went to high school with, Twitter is for people you wish you went to high school with”

-- Someone on Twitter

It wouldn’t be a huge exaggeration to say that my current occupation (and success, if you will) is 50% thanks to Twitter. I’ve joined Twitter in 2008 considering it (as it was advertised at the time) a micro-blogging platform. I enjoyed blogging but sometimes things I wanted to spill to the ether were too short to warrant a blog post. And that’s were Twitter was supposed to come in. Little did I know that it will become the most important communication platform, news source and marketing channel in my life.

MIX10k

In late 2009 I’ve noticed an interesting competition announced by someone on Twitter. It was called MIX10k and the objective was to create a Silverlight (some other technologies were allowed too) app with less than 10kb of source code. So I’ve created this 3D Tic-Tac-Toe game, submitted and campaigned for it on Twitter. I didn’t win the Grand Prize, but won a Community Prize. Thank you, Twitter!

And the prize was [partially] paid trip to MIX10 conference in Las Vegas. That was my first major conference and actually the first trip to US. Moreover that was the conference were Windows Phone 7 development story was unveiled. And Windows Phone development was what I wanted to do next. Unfortunately I got some bad news at the conference, but nevertheless met a ton of cool people who were and still are active in the Windows Phone community on Twitter and elsewhere.

So my initial life plan for 2010 failed, but I’ve stayed active in the #WPDEV community.

AdDuplex

I was hanging on Twitter with my Windows Phone developer friends (among other interesting people) all the time and was curious to see their successes once Windows Phone platform launched. What I saw was some happiness, but mostly disappointment in the way indie developers (especially game developers) struggled to get any visibility in the Store (called Marketplace back then) and as a result not getting any meaningful income from their ad supported apps.

Seeing this I had an idea that developers could help each other by promoting each others apps utilizing the ad space that doesn’t bring them any meaningful income anyway. That’s how AdDuplex was born. And it’s my primary occupation for more than a year now. Thank you, Twitter!

The End Is Near

I’ve met a ton of awesome people on Twitter. I went and/or got invited to a ton of awesome events via Twitter. I’ve met a ton of awesome people in real life via Twitter. Most of these encounters were made possible thanks to different usage patterns that 3rd party Twitter apps provided us. Currently I’m using Metrotwit on the desktop as my primary Twitter client. It allows me to see a bunch of different activities at a time and constantly occupies a whole monitor. I don’t read twitter as a newspaper or an RSS feed. I glance at it from time to time and engage in conversations if something catches my eye. I see my timeline, mentions, DMs and a couple of search columns all at the same time and get a lot of value out of it.

Unfortunately Twitter thinks I’m using it wrong. They are enforcing their vision on 3rd party developers and basically just kicking them out of the platform in an effort to improve monetization. That’s their right and totally understandable. It just doesn’t play well with the way I’ve used and want to continue to use Twitter.

My copy of Metrotwit still works pretty much as I want it to. But for how long? How enthusiastic do Twitter client developers feel this days? I know for a fact that their morale is pretty low. Twitter clients are going away and with them goes away the Twitter I used to love.

I was very skeptical when I heard about app.net initiative. I thought it was an utopia. I still do. But with recent developments around Tweetro and after watching This Week in Startups with Dalton Cardwell I feel it’s time to look for alternatives. And as of today app.net seems the closest thing to it. No matter how utopic paid social network may sound.

So, I pulled the plug and registered on app.net. You can follow me @ailon. You can still follow me @ailon on Twitter too. I’m definitely more present on Twitter than on app.net for the time being, but for how long?

Thank you, Twitter! I’ve loved you. I still like you. And I still want to be friends with you. I just don’t love you anymore. I’m like that spouse that stays only because there’s no strong enough reason to move out just yet. But it’s only a matter of time.

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