If Microsoft aren’t using Xamarin, why should I?

4 May

Microsoft, in a move that many developers were hoping for, purchased the really rather brilliant company Xamarin. Xamarin provides a tool to write cross platform apps from one code base, namely C#. Brilliant! Now the promise of being able to develop for iOS, Android and Windows from the one code base could become a reality without costing a fortune!

Microsoft also purchased Wunderlist. This will gradually be retired in favour of their new application, Microsoft ToDo. Microsoft recently released clients for Windows, Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

None of which were written in Xamarin apparently.

Why?

I can’t find any details of which Microsoft first party apps for iOS and Android are written in Xamarin, but I suspect it’s not many.

It should be a case that virtually all Apps from Microsoft should be written in Xamarin (with the possible exception of those requiring a significant of low level access, and even then I’m not convinced they couldn’t be coded partially in Xamarin if it’s as good as portrayed).

Microsoft used to be the best at eating their own dog food. If they are indeed doing this, isn’t it time we were told?

Buy Cheap, Pay More.

27 Apr

As noted in an earlier posting, I got myself a new laptop last August. This cost me the thick end of £1,800, so was a considered purchase by all accounts.

More recently (early this year) my company, after much kerfuffle, eventually replaced my ageing work laptop with a new developer spec machine.

Developer for them…

When I asked about the possibility of getting something with a touch screen the IT department representative laughed out loud with out a hint of irony. The response was something about “There’s only two touch screen laptops in the company, and you have to be on the board to get one. They cost upwards of £2,500”, accompanied by a look that said “you’re an idiot”.

Hmmm…

“Wow!” I said (really, I said “Wow”). “That must have quite a specification.”

“They have an i7 and 32Gb of ram”

“How much do you spend on the normal laptops for developers then? What spec will I get?”

“They’re about £1,900. Core i5 with 16Gb of RAM and 512Gb SSD. You won’t need more than that.”

A good call considering he doesn’t have any idea what it is I actually do… however, I diverge,

“But I purchased this very laptop here, 4K touchscreen, Core i7, 32Gb RAM, 1Tb M2 storage, 3 year extended warranty, additional battery/charger for £1,800. I think you’re being ripped off…”

“Yes, the touchscreen laptops cost £1,800. The one you’ll get is £1,200…”

What?!!

OK. Whatever. If I’d asked for a Apple machine they only seem to supply top of the range MacBook Pro or Air models, depending on your role (not needs) so at least the money is there for them I suppose.

Still at least I got a new machine, similar to those of my peers.

Unfortunately the build time on my current project is in the region of 90 to 120 seconds with one of these machines.

Benchmarking on something more… capable… we’ve seen sub 35 seconds. It doesn’t sound a lot but multiply that by four (now over eight) developers, and add on testers, and you lose valuable time every day. That ultimately cost the client money (and now us money as we move into a fixed price project structure), and us as the users of these machines become that little bit more frustrated.

Still, it’s a step up from what I had, but I can’t help thinking will need replacing sooner than if they spent that little bit more to begin with.

Sounds like a false economy to me, but I dare say there’s some accountancy rule coming into effect here, and not just penny pinching and status protection.

Still, I look forward to when the client asks for the project to become touch aware (as they have before) and nobody is able to test this due to a lack of hardware…

As an aside, here’s the relative SSD benchmarks for the two machines:

E5470

Company Dell Latitude E5470

XPS15

Personal Dell XPS15 (9550)

So what is going on with Windows 10 Mobile?

25 Apr

From everything I read, nobody knows.

At the moment it just seems to be speculation as to where Microsoft is heading with Mobile as it appears no sources seem to know, or at least nobody is telling.

In some ways this is becoming the norm for Microsoft, which appears to be managing leaks, or at least the media, far better than previously. Take for example the release of the Surface Studio, there was very little chatter about this before the official announcement and what was available was posted with uncertainty by the respectable news sources.

And so we see the same thing with Windows Mobile. Speculation but nobody calling anything concrete other than for the purposes of click-bait. From my own perspective through reading various we sites I can imagine the following panning out:

  • With the release of the Feature2 branch windows Mobile is essentially being put into maintenance mode to keep enterprises and partners happy for the next several years (think HP with their Elite X3, or the various police forces and governments that have adopted Windows Mobile). This has happened before – I was still doing the occasional piece of work for Windows CE less than 2 years ago and devices were still being manufactured and sold running this OS. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t still the case – if it works, etc.
  • Windows Mobile has lost in the consumer space for now, and any work being done now is primarily for enterprise. Look how much new functionality was added for consumers in the Creators Update. Of course the occasional minor feature will continue to trickle out until the next re-boot is announced.
  • With the C-Shell initiative full Windows 10 on ARM is expected. Yes Windows Mobile was largely Windows 10 recompiled for ARM, but not completely. With the move to XAML (most recently in UWP, but also in WPF to some extent) responsive applications have been a reality for some time, so a well designed app can more easily scale to different screen sizes. The main thing full Windows is missing is a telephony stack and it’s job done (an oversimplification perhaps, but even as a worst case scenario the code is there ready to be ported).
  • The hardware is almost there too. The Snapdragon 835 has even been shown to run full Wn32 apps at (what looks like) full speed.
  • Those apps may be too small to use on a phone screen but… Continuum…
  • The Windows store isn’t anything to get excited about yet, many of the Windows developers I work with barely know of it’s existence, let alone understand it. But with Project Centennial hosting full Win32 apps, the Snapdragon 835 emulation, and the expected announcement of Windows Cloud in the next few days (which reportedly only runs apps from the store), perhaps the store will grow legs.
  • Everything is coming in place with the new vision, with the current minimal Windows Mobile user base, why wouldn’t you make the switch now the planets are aligning?

Bear in mind that this speculation is drawn up through third party sources within the echo chamber of the internet (i.e. Site A reports something speculatively, Site B picks up on this and re-reports, site C sees site A and B reporting it, so it looks likely to be true and reports as such, site A sees site C confirming their speculation and reports this is true, etc..)

There’s a couple of things that could prove this theory wrong:

  • Feature2 branch could be a “we never got rs2 finished on mobile. We need to sort this stuff out then we can merge back with the PC rs3 branch.
  • Microsoft said they had a mobile strategy. They didn’t say that strategy included Windows. Perhaps letting Google and Apple take the OS development pain, and making money off the back of them is a cleverer move, at least in the near to mid term (as a loose analogy SEGA did this after the Dreamcast by becoming a publisher for other platforms rather than making their own hardware). After all, Microsoft is no longer “The Windows Company”, it really is all about services now. Last time I checked Windows was only the third biggest revenue generator at Microsoft.

Essentially, who knows?

The one thing I do know is that I’m planning the switch to Android for family soon, at this point in time it’s the right choice for them. I shall do this with a heavy heart though.

I’m even considering the move myself. After the amount of effort I’ve put into Windows Phone and Mobile over the years (and reward from that to be fair) I’m not looking forward to it. But at the end of the day I’ve got no choice.

And the trouble is Microsoft, once I’m back into Android, I’m unlikely to look at coming back for the next 2-3 years minimum. So whilst I’m still happily tied into Microsoft services for now, I will be more exposed to the competition than currently. And you know what that means…

Microsoft is blocking Linux installs!

22 Sep

That’s the headline I’ve seen in a number of places.

Unfortunately, more surely it should probably read something like:

Linux fails to install on some PCs with SSD Raid drives, due to driver’s not yet being available.

(source)

Move on, nothing to see here.

IFTTT

31 Aug

I was just skimming over the Pocket Lint review of the Ring Video Doorbell (my thoughts on the Ring Video Doorbell Pro and Stick Up Cam coming soon) when I noticed they mentioned Ring+ will interface directly with the Belkin WeMo products. That could be worth investigating…

Also of note though is the integration of both Ring and Hue with the IFTTT service.

I’ve known about IFTTT for years, but it never interested me as I’ve never really been able to think of where I’d use it. This integration directly with Ring may be interesting, and additionally WeMo devices are also supported by IFTTT, but looking over the range of devices being sold on Amazon I can’t say there’s anything other than a few simple power sockets that interest me… and then they are only of mild interest… until you factor in the price (£29.99 up apparently) at which point I lose interest entirely.

Still, I may well have a look at IFTTT and see if it can do anything interesting for me.

It’s also interesting to see that the reviewer questions the battery life of his doorbell too. Whilst my doorbell is wired in, my Stick Up Cam has only been running for a little over two days and has already used 20% of its battery apparently. Hopefully the battery just needs to go through a few recharge/discharge cycles to settle down, either way it’s not looking like a good start. This is one of the reasons I’m holding back on my thoughts for now.

Ultraviolet Video… why won’t it work properly.

26 Aug

I’ve built up a (very) small collection of Ultraviolet videos, a grand total of 17 so far apparently.

But I’ve never managed to watch any of them.

Why?

Well I can download the videos and even stream them online, but the quality is less that perfect. I don’t just mean streaming via my embarrassment of a connection at home, but even through my 80+Mbps work connection.

And by less than perfect I mean grainy and jerky video. Even on downloads.

I used to blame my old Surface Pro 2, but secretly I knew that should have easily taken this in its stride.

But I’ve just tried using my new XPS 15 laptop to watch something, and guess what – it’s no better, and this is a comparative beast of a machine.

Sure it warned me that due to the scaling I have for the 4K screen, playback wouldn’t work full screen, but it isn’t working well enough in and scenario, windowed or full screen, downloaded or streamed.

I linked the account to Flixster, but I doubt this is just a problem for them.

So am I doing something wrong? I pretty much know what I’m doing with a computer so if I’m having trouble I’d be arrogant enough to assume I’m not the only one.

For the moment, I’m at a loss on what to do next. So I’ll move on and worry about this some other time.

It’s a shame as the concept offered so much.

Auto Starting Apps in Windows 10

24 Aug

I’ve recently installed a Ring Video Doorbell and am awaiting delivery of  a Stick-up Cam, after which I’ll start writing a review. However one minor concern is that although notifications come through fairly quickly (depending on the current internet connection) it still takes a moment for the app to start. This is literally only a second or two, but with the couple of seconds delay for the notification to arrive anything to trim down the time taken to respond to an event is worth investigating.

With this in mind I started wondering how to actually automatically launch a UWP App when Windows 10 starts up. Running msconfig and selecting the startup tab now redirects you to the task manager. The task manager section only provides the ability to enable and disable from the current list. Curious…

A few minutes with Bing and I found a good article over at WindowsReport.com that covers how to do this.

Essentially I called up a Run command ( Windows Key + R) and entered the command:

shell:Startup

This opened a file explorer window to the startup folder location.

The next question was how do I actually create a shortcut to a UWP App in this folder?

Simple. I made sure the file explorer window would be visible with my start menu opened. Opened up the start menu, then simple dragged the tile for the UWP app onto the file explorer window and into that folder.

Job done.

I hope this quick tip saves somebody a bit of time searching around.