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Aside

David Cutler

22 Apr

A brief interview with a genius.

Read more at http://news.microsoft.com/features/the-engineers-engineer-computer-industry-luminaries-salute-dave-cutlers-five-decade-long-quest-for-quality/#sm.00001mwq8ils3ad4ny3qdf0w01ba7

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So I decided…

18 Apr

Well, it did take a bit of soul searching, but eventually heart won out over head.

I went for the Lumia 950XL, finding a refurbished model for £299 online. It arrived quickly and seems perfect so far, so hopefully nothing goes wrong with it going forward.

Price did play a part in my decision. I couldn’t find a Nexus 6P for anywhere near this, which could be a good sign as it may show people are holding on to them or snapping them up quickly when they do come up for resale (which would also push the price up, or hey, they may not be quite as popular as I thought…).

But overall I’m just happy with Windows Mobile. Not having used an Android [mobile] device for a few years now I find Windows Mobile does everything I want. Of course, this may well be a case of not knowing any better.

It also falls into the “justifying my decision” category that we are all unknowingly guilty of. For example, if I made the decision to purchase an Android or iPhone device, I’d be naturally inclined to recommend them, since nobody wants to admit they made a wrong choice unless it’s staring them in the face.

Of course, many will say buying another device on a dead platform is a wrong choice staring me in the face, but I don’t believe this is entirely the case.

A part of me would still like to see Windows Mobile take off, but I realise this is never going to happen, certainly not for the next few years. But I don’t think we’re dead either.  Windows phone is essentially just Windows 10 compiled to ARM with a few phone modifications, and as such it’s relatively simple for Microsoft to continue to support.

More importantly, Microsoft needs to continue this support phones to fully flesh out the “Windows Everywhere” mantra that the company is following for universal applications. Lose phones, lose some of the appeal of keeping developers interested in your entire platform.

And it’s UWP that I believe will keep the platform alive and what, as a traditional PC user, makes it interesting to me. The fact I can buy an application on my phone or PC, and it will provide me with the same application on the other device for no extra charge (as it’s the same app, same code, etc.) is great.

Windows 10 is pushing the quality and quantity UWP applications in the store up gradually, so I hope desktop Windows will essentially keep Windows Mobile viable for the few of us die-hards that remain.

Will this result in an increase in Windows Mobile market share. Possibly, especially in the enterprise, but probably not for consumers (and probably not in the enterprise with DYOD being a huge factor, but it can only help).

The fact that Windows Mobile is not a priority for Microsoft at the moment is totally understandable, but worrying. Still, if UWP lays the groundwork, and they carry on developing the system (and most of that will be down to work being done on the other Windows 10 variants) then there is still something to look forward to, and it lays the groundwork for if Microsoft should ever decide the time is right to make Windows Mobile a priority again.

Remember, Windows Mobile is just Windows now, with just a few minor modifications.

It just remains to be seen if that is enough to keep it going.

In the meantime I’ll just enjoy using my new phone.

Decisions, Decisions…

7 Apr

So I’m very happy with my Lumia 550 purchased at the end of last year…

…but it is starting to feel a little slow and underpowered.

Since it looks like Microsoft won’t be releasing any new Windows Phone hardware this year, it leaves me with a difficult choice:

1. Stay with the L550 for a while
2. Get a 950 XL (shopping around I’ve seen £299)
3. Get a Nexus 6P (more expensive than the L950)

So why option 3?

Well, I like to think Windows phone is hibernating rather than dead, and that once all those lovely UWP apps have built up with the introduction of Windows 10, Microsoft will go full throttle on this great phone OS…

But that’s clearly not going to happen in the near future, if at all.

So that leaves Android as my preferred alternative, and with the recent news around Xamarin, it could be useful to have an Android phone to develop against (and I’ll still have the 550 to test mobile UWP issues)

But then the L950 will let me play with Continuum… and I do love Windows Mobile.

I need more money so I can just by both.

Aside

Microsoft buys Xamarin

25 Feb

About time.

Not just got the technology, but just as much (if not more so) for the awesome staff.

Good move.

So now the bridges really can go both ways.

The top 1%

1 Feb

Or to put it more accurately, the bottom 1%.

That’s where market share of Windows Mobile has plummeted to (worldwide, I see quite a few WM phones in the wild here), and it’s depressing. As one developer who is pulling out of Windows Mobile put it “the market share is falling, and Microsoft doesn’t seem to be doing anything to combat it”.

And finally, I’ve come to agree.

I think Microsoft does see a future in Windows Phone, but it doesn’t see it as anything other than rounding out its offerings and as an insurance policy if they get locked out of Android or iOS.

What a shame. Competition was good, and having a third player is better than having two competing companies for everyone involved. Plus, I do genuinely believe Windows Mobile has the better interface, but that’s now largely academic.

So My lowly Lumia 550 may well be my last Windows Mobile device, even if the surface phone was to arrive. This makes me sad as it feels like taking a step back.

So where to next? Well, probably Android rather than iOS, purely because I’ll probably be concentrating my development efforts there, now Windows Mobile is effectively dead.

Which itself is interesting. I spent some time refreshing my Android knowledge mid last year, only to switch back to Universal Apps and then ASP.Net/Knockout/Bootstrap as work dictated.

With Windows Mobile out of the picture there isn’t as much of a draw to develop Universal Applications, after all, they’ll be universal on what?

HoloLens? Brilliant. No good to me now though.

IoT? Very interesting. But not commercially any use for me.

XBox? I love my XBox. I’m not interested in developing for it.

There’s only one thing that Microsoft can do to reignite my interest in Universal Applications right now – add Android compatibility.

Microsoft dropped the Astoria bridge (or at least postponed it indefinitely) which bought Android applications over to Windows Mobile. Perhaps it is looking at the problem the opposite way around now – bring Windows Universal applications over to Android.

That would be great!

But what would Microsoft get out of it?

Possibly sales of its development tools, which is not to be sniffed at.

If the apps go in the Amazon or Google Play stores they won’t get a cut of the revenue there, but licensing apps developed with the technology could also produce a revenue stream (although be unpopular I’d imagine). Or launch their own store, which would be silly.

Or perhaps the best thing they would get is more apps in the Windows 10 store – both desktop and mobile. That would be one hell of a Trojan horse. Possibly even enough to make Windows Mobile a viable proposition again if enough apps were released this route…

That’s one hell of a long shot, based on zero evidence. It’s just flights of fancy from a disheartened developer. But my god it’s appealing!

But that’s not where the company is going. They are more interested in seeing people using their services on whatever platform these days, and that is a good thing for them. The days of Windows being king are long gone, as well they should be in this new world.

But a unified development platform could also be potentially good for Microsoft. They too would benefit from the develop once run anywhere model that Java never quite achieved. But it’s a lot of work with many compromises…. which they have already worked out how to address with the current UWP implementation.

So come on Microsoft – make Universal Apps that little bit more Universal, and restore my faith!

Until then, I’m going back to the web.

Cutting Edge Technology?

6 Jan

I’ve just purchased a new Windows Phone (OK, we’re calling it Windows Mobile again now we’ve hit Windows 10 everywhere, I’m sorry). It’s my third Windows phone device (I’m referring to the device, not the OS, so it’s a Windows phone – with a small ‘p’) and the ninth Windows phone device I’ve been responsible for purchasing.

This phone is for me, and it will be used for development purposes as well as a daily driver.

So what did I get?

The new flagship Lumia 950XL that I’ve had my eye on for months?

No.

I went for a SIM-Free Lumia 550 for £49.99 (plus £10 top-up).

Yep. My main phone for (at least) the next few months is about the cheapest device Microsoft is churning out at the moment. It’s also about 1/8th of the price of the 950XL I had my eye on.

I’ve had it a week, and so far I’m impressed… stunned when I consider how much it cost.

The 550 doesn’t do everything I want, the biggest omission being Continuum support that I plan to look into developing against, but I feel this functionality requires a bit more work from Microsoft before it is ready for prime time so I’m OK holding off on that for a while.

Then there’s things like the camera which isn’t a patch on the beast on the 950 variants (but surprisingly seems to be able to knock out better photos than my partner’s Lumia 640).

The speed is also nothing to write home about, but then Windows Phone/Mobile have always been very responsive so it’s quite zippy, and it’s still better than my aging Lumia 920.

Oh, and it already runs Windows 10 natively, by which I mean the device is supplied with Windows Mobile 10 out of the box, and doesn’t require the current workaround of signing up to the Insider Preview required by all the other handsets other than the 550 and 950 variants (of course, that’s likely to change in a matter of days as the rollout for prior devices should start commencing very soon).

Otherwise the phone is very good. Windows Mobile 10 is still a work in progress, but very good with only a few little gripes (why did my screen go blank for a few seconds earlier today?) which are more than outweighed by the new functionality available. I decided to start fresh with this device and not install any backups from other devices so this is probably helping the stability side, and fortunately for me I’ve not encountered any serious issues… so far.

The SD card slot is a godsend. I’ve put a 128Gb Micro SD card in the phone (Amazon Black-Friday deal), and almost all apps and data are installed on this, so even though the phone only comes with 8Gb of internal memory, I’ve still got almost 3Gb of that free (more than I typically had on my Lumia 920), with acres of space left on the SD card for me to fill up with my media, etc.

So all in all I’m impressed with this cheap little device, and can see myself using it for a while. Longer term I’ll be tempted by something a little more powerful (be that the 950 XL when some of the issues are sorted and the price has dropped) or should a Surface Phone arrive that actually offers something new (X-86 and desktop apps under Continuum? Yes please!)

Then again I should be impressed, I have just come from a handset that was released over three years ago, a lot has changed in that time.

But still, £50!!!!

It’s a steal.

To The Cloud!

1 Apr

I’ve been using OneDrive for many years now, starting not long after it’s release as SkyDrive. Back then new users were allocated 25Gb of storage space for free, an incredible amount for the time. In later years this initial free allocation has fallen to 15Gb for new members, although existing users kept their 25Gb quota (this is listed as 15Gb free and 10Gb loyalty bonus in the graphic below).

Also over the years I’ve taken up or been assigned various other offers of additional free space, the most notable of which was the 200Gb of free space for two years after I purchased my Surface Pro 2. This has meant that I’ve always had plenty of cloud space to play with, and saw me starting to transition my digital photo backups to the cloud, consisting of many gigabytes of files.

Recently I took out an office 365 subscription which now means I have 1 terabyte of cloud space at my disposal. Actually, that’s not true, I have unlimited space but either Microsoft is still rolling this out, or it’s assigned as you come close to needing it, I can’t remember exactly what the situation is but it’s not an issue right now.

OneDriveAllocation

So how much does all this cost… well an office 365 Home subscription for 5 people officially costs £79.99. So that’s Office on the desktop for 5 people (including all updates, so when patches or the next version are released you are eligible for them), plus that 1Tb/Unlimited OneDrive space for each of the 5 users (alternatively for £59.99 is Office 365 Personal, a single user licence is available). Oh, and there’s 60 minutes of Skype calls to landlines (worldwide I think) per month included too.

It’s expensive for some users, but for somebody like me it’s good value. Not that I paid full price, a quick search on eBay can reveal some decent savings, along with the fact that a lot of phones and small screen tablets come with a year of Office 365 Personal thrown in for free, sometimes with devices costing less than the £59.99 of the licence when purchased on its own!

So considering I never used more than about 10% of my free allocation, with more than 1Tb of space I now have it was time to start shifting more of my precious files to the cloud. I’ve already mentioned moving my photo archive over. This is a slow process as I’m trying to take the opportunity to make sure the photos are correctly tagged and filed as I go.

So what else goes up?

Well, I started to copy over the FLAC rips of my music CDs I’ve completed, since this took so much time and it would be nice to have an offsite backup.

And now Xbox music allows you to stream MP3 and AAC files stored in the Music folder on OneDrive, so I’m currently copying them over slowly (the flac rips have gone on hold until this process is completed). Unfortunately this archive consists of many gigabytes of data so it is a slow process, especially with the comically bad upload speed I get on my current Virgin cable connection (I can’t upgrade as I’ll be locked in to a new contract for another year and I want to move house soon). I’m trying to alleviate this by performing as many uploads as I can over hotel Wi-Fi, but even so it’s a slow process.

So what next?

Well, my documents are already on there. Personal videos are going up as a by-product of the photos. I don’t think I have the bandwidth to put ripped DVDs and Blu-Ray files in the cloud. So I’m not sure.

What I do know is that it’s good knowing I have a backup of my files offsite. Being able to easily stream or view those files is also a fantastic feature.

Now then, let’s get that move sorted and get some serious internet upload speed.