ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

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”

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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:

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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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