ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

Follow Up on International WP7 Marketplace Petition

12/27/2010 7:15:17 PM

Thank you to everyone who signed the International Windows Phone 7 App Marketplace Petition and/or spread the word! As I’m writing this more than 1000 people have already signed the petition. And that without any help from mainstream media (as far as I know). Not bad!

Thanks to WMPoweruser, wpcentral, Mobility Digest, René Schulte, Justin Angel, David Petrla and everyone else who helped us achieve this milestone. Sure this number means nothing if Microsoft doesn’t react but it should be hard to ignore by now.

The feedback has been mostly positive but there were some recurring misunderstandings I became tired dispelling in comments and on Twitter. So I decided to address these in this post one by one.

Disclaimer: I don’t pretend that everything I write below is 100% accurate but I’m trying to be as accurate as I can

There are some legal, tax, currency and similar issues

First I must admit I’m not a lawyer. And I’m not denying that there might be some issues in this area in some countries. That said my favorite example to dismiss this argument is Belgium and The Netherlands.

These are 2 neighboring European Union countries and are part of Benelux. They have the same currency (Euro) and all EU countries have aligned trade laws so once you can sell in one of the EU countries you can sell in all of them. So why is Belgium is on the list of supported countries and The Netherlands isn’t? The answer is fairly simple once you know that one of the official languages in Belgium is French and there already is a French WP7 app marketplace for a big market in France.

International trade seems to be a boogeyman for most people in USA and they seem to imagine it as something that takes years to overcome. But you know what? I work for and co-own a small company here in Lithuania. We’ve been selling our software electronically worldwide since 2003 and it took us only a few hours to set this up. Sure, we do it through a 3rd party service but Microsoft uses (used?) the parent company (Digital River) of the company we use for their own Windows Marketplace (now Microsoft Store). And guess what, there’s a European Union (English) Microsoft Store.

Anyway I’ve heard that in some countries banks charge credit card owners for international transactions and things like that. This is a valid reason to hold out roll out to these countries, but for many countries and European Union for sure, the English (International) App marketplace is literally no further than one decision and one UPDATE query away. In my humble opinion, for course.

Xbox Live is not global, so what do you want from WP7 marketplace?

Xbox Live is a great addition to Xbox experience, but it’s still an addition to the offline gaming experience. You can go into a store worldwide and buy a game you can enjoy on your Xbox. But guess what’s the only way to get apps onto your shiny WP7 device? Right.

Zune is not global, so what do you want from WP7 marketplace?

Again, you can load your own music and videos obtained elsewhere to your WP7. But guess what’s the only way to get apps onto the phone?

We understand that not everything is in Microsoft’s hands when it comes to music and video. Regional restrictions on music are still lame but it’s a totally different issue and that’s why it was explicitly excluded from the petition:

We are not talking about Music & Video where we understand that not everything is in your hands. We are talking about your own app marketplace.

Additionally Zune is available in some form in countries where WP7 app marketplace isn’t (like Norway and Sweden). This says that these marketplaces aren’t directly related.

Many countries have access to iOS App Store in iTunes but not music and video. These are 2 different stories.

Microsoft wants to localize the marketplace properly before opening it in new countries

Great. So why exactly phones without localization are sold officially in all those “other” countries? If someone bought a phone without localized UI and didn’t return it, would they mind non-localized Marketplace? I wouldn’t.

In addition proper localization is almost impossible. Here’s one comment from a Belgian who signed the petition:


I live in Lithuania and most of the content sites over here are in Lithuanian exclusively. The nearby Latvia has a larger Russian-speaking population and almost all of the sites over there have both Latvian and Russian versions. You get the picture.

It’s a global world so there’s quite a lot of people living around the world and not speaking (or at least not preferring) the language of the country they live in. There’s a need to be able to switch languages in any region and basically in all of them there should be an option to switch to English. So why not launch English marketplace right now and work on extra languages later?


That’s all I can think of right now. I still don’t see any reasonable explanations to the situation around Windows Phone 7 App Marketplace. A few critics of the petition all rehashed the same things I’ve tried to disprove above and Microsoft keeps it’s silence for now.

We’ll see what happens next.

Tags: , ,

International Windows Phone 7 App Marketplace Petition

12/22/2010 1:28:00 PM

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a fan of petitions, “calling your representative” and things like that. Yet I can’t understand the current state of Windows Phone 7 experience around the World. The more or less full experience (minus differences in access to Music & Video) is available in 17 countries. At the same time phones are sold in way more than those 17 countries.

Last time I raised this issue the phones weren’t officially available over here in Lithuania. Now I can go into official stores of 2 cell operators in Lithuania and walk out with one of the 2 available HTC models.


At the same time when I launch Zune Software on my Windows 7 with current location set to Lithuania here’s what I see:


Notice that the Marketplace tab is missing. It takes switching location to United States (or other supported region)


to see that tab


Unfortunately even after this we can only access the free apps and trials because it wouldn’t accept our credit cards.

Some might say we are lucky that we can see free apps in the marketplace on our phones (I’m still not sure if this is the case without any tricks but it could be). People in other countries can’t do even that:


The worst part of all of this is that there’s no official information on the problems Microsoft is facing with allowing access to the marketplace in countries other than those 17 lucky ones. And unfortunately for Microsoft not many people can come up with a reasonable guess as to what these problems might be.

I’ve heard (and thought of) only 2 reasons:

Guess #1. Localization. Microsoft wants to localize the marketplace into local languages before launching it in new markets.

Here’s why this doesn’t make much sense: There’s no Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, etc. UI in the Windows Phone 7 OS itself, yet the phones are available in Lithuania, Norway, Poland, etc. So absence of localization doesn’t stop them from selling the phones, but stops from providing access to the marketplace? Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Guess #2. Taxes. Apparently Microsoft needs to deal with tax differences and similar stuff.

I’m no economist, but I’m pretty sure that once you’ve dealt with taxes in one European Union country you can cover all of the EU from there without any substantial overhead. We have 8 EU countries covered by the marketplace (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom). Where are the other 19? And I’m not talking about new members. Where’s Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden, etc.? Looking at the list it seems obvious that selection was made by language rather than anything else. But we’ve covered that above.

Any other guesses? And why do we have to guess? Why is it difficult for Microsoft to come up with an explanation and a roadmap? What’s the point in silence in this case?

Who wins here? Consumers can’t access the marketplace – bad. Developers and Microsoft can’t sell apps to these consumers – bad. And the worst part that there are no explainable obstacles responsible for that. I’m not saying there aren’t any for sure, I’m just asking to let us know if there are.

A week ago I’ve shown my LG Optimus 7 to a non-technical friend. He asked me if I can recommend him buying a WP7 phone. And honestly, being a Windows Phone fan myself, I couldn’t. I don’t want my friend to be mad at me for having to go through hoops just to get some apps on his smartphone. I will recommend the phone once this is resolved, I will highlight it’s great novel UI and try to justify some deficiencies in order to convince my peers, but I can’t do that right now.

So when I saw another desperate cry of frustration with this situation on Twitter, I’ve snapped and decided to create a petition. Here it is:

International Windows Phone 7 App Marketplace Petition

If you agree with what’s written there and in this blog post, please, take a few seconds to sign the petition and spread the word. Maybe this way Microsoft will hear us and shine some light on the situation or better yet just flip the switch.

Tags: , ,

amCharts Quick Charts in “Colin Eberhardt’s Performance Test”

12/17/2010 7:04:19 PM

About a week ago Colin Eberhardt has published a post in Scott Logic blog comparing performance of several Silverlight charting libraries. Not surprisingly their Visiblox charts came on top in a shoot out between 6 contenders (2 of them unnamed for licensing reasons).

amCharts Quick Charts were absent from the comparison. One can only guess why. Maybe they aren’t known enough, even though amCharts comes up higher on Google when looking for “silverlight charts” than many of the reviewed contenders. Or maybe the reason is in the paragraphs below ;)

amCharts Quick Charts Test

I’ve plugged Quick Charts into the test project provided in the above mentioned blog and here’s the result:

Here’s the XAML for Quick Charts

   1: <Grid x:Name="LayoutRoot" Background="White">
   2:       <chart:SerialChart x:Name="chart" 
   3:                          CategoryValueMemberPath="Location" 
   4:                          LegendVisibility="Collapsed" 
   5:                          MinimumValueGridStep="5"
   6:                          MinimumCategoryGridStep="1000"
   7:                          >
   8:           <chart:SerialChart.Graphs>
   9:               <chart:LineGraph Brush="#A00" ValueMemberPath="RIntensity" />
  10:               <chart:LineGraph Brush="#0A0" ValueMemberPath="GIntensity"  />
  11:               <chart:LineGraph Brush="#00A" ValueMemberPath="BIntensity"  />
  12:           </chart:SerialChart.Graphs>
  13:       </chart:SerialChart>
  14:   </Grid>

and C# for hooking app the data from the test suite:

   1: protected override void RenderDataToChart(List<List<Histogram.DataPoint>> rgbData)
   2: {
   3:     _chart.Chart.DataSource = GetRGBData(rgbData);
   4: }
   6: private List<RGBData> GetRGBData(List<List<Histogram.DataPoint>> rgbData)
   7: {
   8:     var data =
   9:         from r in rgbData[0]
  10:         join g in rgbData[1] on r.Location equals g.Location
  11:         join b in rgbData[2] on r.Location equals b.Location
  12:         select new RGBData() { Location = r.Location, RIntensity = r.Intensity, GIntensity = g.Intensity, BIntensity = b.Intensity };
  14:     return data.ToList();
  15: }

Notice that I had to combine data from 3 separate lists in the test suite into one list for Quick Charts which affects performance somewhat.

Even though I admit this is due to an intentional limitation in Quick Charts, I still can’t see why the data for each point is in 3 separate lists in the first place? 1 object per point would make more sense. Maybe there’s an objective reason for that, or maybe this way is preferable for Visiblox API. I don’t know and lets just leave it at that.

Test results

I’ve ran the automated tests for Visiblox and amCharts Quick Charts on my machine (10 times each) and here are the average results:

  • Visiblox – 63.9 fps
  • amCharts Quick Charts – 70.6 fps.


You probably expect my conclusion to be that amCharts Quick Charts is faster than Visiblox and consequently all the other charting libraries in the original test. Sure, that too ;)

But my main conclusion is that you shouldn’t compare apples to oranges. All the charting libraries on that list have their strong features and they all probably have some killer features that affect performance. Now if you need that feature the performance advantage of some other library (that doesn’t have the feature) is pointless.

amCharts Quick Charts was created with simplicity in mind. So, even though it’s not very performance oriented, it beats other charts because it doesn’t do some special things other libraries (including amCharts Bundle and amCharts Stock Chart) might do.

Anyway the point is: if you need simple and performing WPF, Silverlight or Windows Phone 7 charts, probably nothing beats amCharts Quick Charts, but, when you are after some advanced features or deeper customization, performance becomes a secondary factor, not primary.

Tags: ,

3 Weeks with LG Optimus 7 and Windows Phone 7

12/16/2010 2:35:27 PM

imageI’ve had my LG Optimus 7 Windows Phone for more than 3 weeks now. The short story – I love it. It’s by no means perfect and Windows Phone 7 as an OS is in it’s infancy. So to be honest every WP7 fan must admit that if you need the most powerful, customizable, etc. smartphone today you will be better off with top of the line Android device or an iPhone.

But Windows Phone is getting there in big steps and I believe it won’t take long before there’s no obvious gap between Android, iOS and Windows Phone in terms of features and app availability. Keeping that in mind I can say that I like WP7 Metro UI. All those fake 3D elements, shadows, glass effects of the other platforms look so 2008 compared to clean digital UI of WP7.

There are tons of WP7 reviews on the web and I don’t have anything substantial to add to that. So I’ll just point why I chose LG Optimus 7 as my WP7 device:

Physical hardware buttons

All other currently available WP7 devices have capacitive touch sensitive buttons for the 3 mandatory WP7 hardware buttons. I hate that. Almost every review of a dynamic game in marketplace comes with owners of Samsungs and HTCs whining about accidentally brushing over a hardware button and dropping out of the game. Optimus 7 (currently) is the only phone that has real physical hardware buttons. And guess what, I’ve never accidentally press them, because you really have to press them for it to register.

Build quality

I was pleasantly surprised with build quality of my LG. It’s very solid with metal back, rugged plastic top and bottom. It sits very nicely in hand. It’s a little heavier than I expected and even taller than HTC HD7 but I can’t say it’s a bad thing.

Actually when I decided that I want Optimus 7 I thought that it’s looks are a sacrifice I’m making for other features I wanted. But ever since I got it in my hands for the first time I started liking it. It’s a rare case when a product looks better in reality than on promotional pictures (I’m looking at you, McDonald’s!)

16GB of storage

All other phones on European market (as far as I remember) come with 8gb of storage. Some of them have SD card slots but using that slot is currently tricky. Optimus 7 doesn’t have such a slot but has 16gb right away and I think it’ll do for me for a couple of years.

PlayTo DLNA app

LG has included an exclusive DLNA streaming app called PlayTo. This app let’s you stream photos, music and videos from your phone directly to your DLNA enabled TV (or computer). Here’s my video review/demonstration of this feature (sorry for my English and video quality ;):

Now I have no doubts that this feature will be built-in into the OS itself at some point in the future and probably Samsung will add their “AllShare” app to their WP7 phones even earlier than that. But for now you have to have LG handset to get this awesome feature.

SAMOLED is not a feature ©

I’ve coined this phrase as a response to the people who want to get Samsung Omnia 7 (or Focus in US) solely because it has a Super AMOLED screen. My wife has a Samsung Galaxy S with SAMOLED. Yes, the blacks are super deep and colors are super vivid. That’s awesome for a display stand in the store but in reality the colors are too warm for my taste and my wife complained that Angry Birds on her coworkers SE Xperia X10 looked better to her taste (she doesn’t know or care for buzzwords). You may also want to check this video which demonstrates an interesting glitch in SAMOLED equipped Samsung Omnia 7.

Anyway, I’m not trying to say that SAMOLED is bad or even worse than plain LCD in Optimus 7. I’m just saying that having a SAMOLED doesn’t change anything in the way you use your phone. That’s why I’m declaring it as “not a feature”.

Few grains of salt

Obviously not everything is perfect in Optimus 7. The on/off button could’ve been a little bigger and, IMHO, it should be on the left of the phones top (not on the right).

My biggest complaint is the location of micro-USB port. Whoever is responsible for placing it on the side of the phone (or actually any location other than bottom) should be severely punished. This kills the possibility of having a normal desk or car dock for the phone, makes it uncomfortable to use while plugged, etc. No engineering needs can justify that in my book.

That’s all I had to say for now.

Tags: ,

Windows Phone 7 Apps on My Phone

12/10/2010 8:13:00 PM

I’ve had my LG Optimus 7 Windows Phone 7 for about 3 weeks now. There are some omissions, rough edges and gotchas (try finding out MAC address of your phone), but overall I love it.

Here’s the list of 3rd party apps I have installed and use (or plan to use).

Note: Microsoft probably has more money than they need, so they don’t want to accept my perfectly valid VISA and MasterCard credit cards based on geographic location of my bank. So my list consists mostly of free apps or apps with usable trials. I’ve added a section at the bottom about some paid apps I would definitely buy if I could.



I’ve tried the official Twitter app first and for some reason didn’t like it. Then after some time I returned to it and I think currently it’s the best (free) twitter app on WP7. That said Beezz shows a lot of promise and an update should come as I write this so I’ll be checking it out for sure. I’ve tried Seesmic too. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t support typing updates in landscape so this deficiency alone was a complete show stopper for me.


This is a little app that integrates into Pictures Hub and let’s you twit a picture right from there. It’s a little rough around the edges but works well and demonstrates the power of Hub concept – snap a picture, twit it, get on with your life.


This is one of the best looking WP7 apps so far and it’s basically just an IMDb client. I use it to check on actors while watching a movie and things like that. I miss the ability to login into IMDb to add movies to “My Movies” etc.


That’s a very basic app, but could be really useful. Quite often I find myself in a situation when I (or someone else) needs to count who drinks tea or coffee (and things like that) and it’s usually a messy process. This little app should help with that.

The Weather Channel

There’s a number of weather apps but I’ve end up using this one. It has a Live Tile, shows forecasts of reasonable accuracy, supports several locations, etc.


This app has a list of cocktail recipes and Blood Alcohol Calculator. It’s not as nice looking as Cocktail Flow, but it’s free (meaning I can actually use it)

Drum Machine

A very slick looking drumming app (or is it a game?). Just a nice way to spend a few minutes making beat-like noises. Way better than making fart-like noises.


Hear a great song, let this app listen and get a name for it. Users in countries with Zune access can get a track right away. The rest of us at least get the info what was playing.

Mapsnap GPS

I haven’t actually used this app yet, but I like the concept. You snap a picture of a paper map (or load a scanned map) calibrate it with a couple of points and you can have your location. Good for getting around in the foreign cities, large parks, etc. and doesn’t require a data connection (which could be expensive when roaming)


Disclaimer: I’m not a gamer.


The goal is to fall down as fast as you can. Usable trial. Looks good and a nice way to kill a couple of minutes.

Falling Balls

Now this is a simplistic but funny and cruel game. Usable trial and very addictive. Highly recommended.

Air Hockey

Looks and feels nice but there’s only a 2 player mode.

Lucky 7

Very nice looking slot machine simulator.

Reversi Pro (free)

A neatly implement Reversi game.

Spin Crisis

Help a round object fly through a maze.


This one is developed by an indy developer and I’m pretty sure you have to pay royalties to make a Tetris game. But it’s in the marketplace, it’s free and it’s Tetris, so what do I care :) Not the best implementation but playable. I’ve read complaints about accidentally hitting phone buttons while playing, but this is what you should expect when you buy a phone with capacitive hardware buttons, suckers ;)


This is one of tens of Tic Tac Toe games in the marketplace, but a nice looking one. Plus it includes a 6x6 mode which makes it interesting.

Tic-Tac-Toe 3D

Shameless plug, I know. But, hey, I have it on my phone and I play it. Plus it’s an awesome little game ;) End of shameless plug.


Unite several quicksilver balls into a bigger one using accelerometer.

Apps I wish I could buy, but I can’t :(

Pictures Lab

Enhance your photos with tens of effects. Some artistic, some just fun. Integrates right into the Pictures Hub.

Cocktail Flow

This is the best looking app I’ve seen on WP7 so far. And, yes, it’s about cocktails, but it could’ve been about worms, I don’t care. It’s that pretty.


Great looking and (should be) functional Google Analytics client. Uses amCharts Quick Charts for charting (another shameless plug).


This is a fun physics based game. I’d call it Angry Birds for WP7, well, at least while real Angry Birds are not available. The trial is enough to get you hooked but not something you can play over and over.

This is it for now. I’ll update this post when I find more apps that are there to stay.

Did I miss some really awesome app? Let me know in the comments. Remember that for now it has to be either free or have a usable trial.


Video Demonstration of Tic-Tac-Toe 3D for WP7

12/10/2010 1:27:05 PM

I’ve posted a video demo of my Tic-Tac-Toe 3D for Windows Phone 7. Check it out:



Tic-Tac-Toe 3D on Windows Phone 7

12/9/2010 6:02:56 PM

wp7_152x50_blueToday an enhanced version of my award winning Tic-Tac-Toe 3D game was published on Windows Phone 7 marketplace. This version was developed and published in cooperation with René Schulte and, in addition to adaptation for the Windows Phone 7 platform, includes a 2 player mode, scoreboard, inertia and other minor enhancements.

The game costs only $0.99 and includes a free trial which is a fully functional single player game.

Get it here (if you have Zune installed or reading this from the phone) and please spread the word if you like it. Thank you! In case you don’t have Zune installed, you can check a web listing for the app on WP7applist.

Here are some screenshots:


And here’s a video demo:


Tags: ,

Legal Sideloading Scenario for Windows Phone 7

12/8/2010 10:05:31 AM

Disclaimer: By no means I pretend to have all the knowledge needed to make this work and all the challenges Microsoft is facing in this area. This is just my stream of consciousness on the subject.

What’s the biggest worry for Microsoft on the subject off people sideloading apps? The answer to this question is hard to guess wrong. They don’t want alternative marketplaces to appear and compete with the official marketplace undercutting developer earnings, trust, etc. and in turn Microsoft’s earnings and market share.

I’d leave piracy alone since it’s not something you can fight without punishing legitimate users along the way. The phones will be hacked anyway and pirates will do their thing. I don’t have any doubts about it.

On the other hand there are lots of people who would love to be able to load apps to the phone for pretty legitimate reasons like:

  • hobbyist making apps for themselves and friends
  • people who can’t become official WP7 developers (there are more than 30 countries in the world, you know)
  • companies making apps for internal use

I don’t think any of the above mentioned usages constitutes any danger to the official marketplace. So, basically, the goal is to make 3rd party marketplace apps either impossible or, more likely, too complicated for normal people to use.

So, what if people could load XAPs via Zune and these XAPs would be signed on the fly and only signed apps could run on the phone? This way it’s pretty easy for regular folks to sideload their apps, impossible for on-the-phone 3rd party marketplaces to exist and too complicated for web/PC 3rd party marketplaces to gain any mainstream traction.

It sounds too simple for me to be true, so I’m probably missing something. What do I miss?

Tags: , ,

Copyright © 2003 - 2018 Alan Mendelevich
Powered by BlogEngine.NET