Tag Archives: Windows Phone

There’s an App for That!

The first of the posts to be making their circle this year is posting what apps they recommend on their phones. My friends Jeff Blankenburg and Brian Jackett made posts, and I figured I’d join in on this.

My Phone

I have a Samsung Focus on AT&T with the Mango update. Hard to believe, I’ve had my phone for over a year now. Very pleased with the Windows Phone interface, I’ve added many apps to my phone since getting it.

Social Media Apps

  • 4th & Mayor – It took me awhile to get into the whole Foursquare check-ins trend. But after devLink this summer, I’ve checked into a few places – currently at 184 check-ins, 4 mayorships, 21 badges, 12 tips, and 42 friends. My top places include places where I was contracted to work and where the user groups meet. In the past 6 months, my top categories include airports, food & drink shops, and offices. All of these statistics are easily attainable in 4th & Mayor! Once again, Jeff Wilcox has put out an awesome app.
  • Birdsong - While talking with my friend Chris Woodruff while we were in Seattle last year, I asked him if he could recommend any apps for juggling multiple Twitter accounts. Birdsong is great for that! Whether I’m Tweeting as @sadukie, @clevtechevents, or one of my various conference accounts, I have one app that allows me to switch between accounts and tweet from there. While I don’t use it often when I have my laptop on hand, I do find it helpful if I need to post a picture to Twitter while I’m on the road.

Productivity Apps

  • Amazon Mobile – Definitely handy when you’re buying items from a brick and mortar store and really wondering if you should spend that amount on something that you could wait a few days for. Being an Amazon Prime person and having free 2-day shipping on orders, this is a must-have for me.
  • Diagnosis – Whether you’re trying to diagnose battery usage and signal problems or wanting to tether out on your phone, this is a must-have for Samsung Focus users. You can find more on the Samsung Focus Diagnosis app on the XDA-Developers site.
  • GoVoice – If you have a Google Voice account, you can check your Google Voice texts and voicemails on your Windows Phone with the GoVoice app. This has been helpful in deciphering what some of my transcribed voice mails really were.
  • Last.fm – Listen to the streaming music over last.fm right on your phone with this app!  When I’m not listening to last.fm on my XBOX, I may be listening to it on my phone.  It’s nice to have this option in addition to any other options I’d have in whichever car I’m driving.
  • Mileage Log – Being in business for myself, I have a new world of tax write-offs, including mileage to places.  Also, with getting a new car last July, I was curious to see how its mileage would be throughout the year.  This app allows me to track my mileage (including the price) so that I can see the mpg trends in my car.
  • Stopwatch – Good for timing laps and as a general timer.
  • Translator - Right now, the supported languages include English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.  I like having this on hand when I am dealing with an international audience and need to get words or sentences translated.
  • Unit Converter – I’m known to run searches such as “150 lb to stone” or “47 degrees F to C” and then getting the conversion from a search engine.  However, having Unit Converter on my phone means that I have these conversion abilities right at my fingertips when I’m on the go.  Whether I’m looking at length, temperature, speed, time, volume, angle, weight, or area, this app has been very helpful in getting me the conversions I need when I need them.
  • WordPress - If you have 1 or even more than 1 WordPress website, this Windows Phone app is great for managing your WordPress sites.  One thing to note, XML-RPC publishing needs to be enabled on self-hosted  WordPress blogs before you can publish from the app. WordPress.com-hosted apps have this enabled by default.
  • World Clock – If you have business clients (or in my case, family) throughout the world, this app can help you keep track of what time it is in other parts of the world.  For me, having family in London, Sydney, and Hong Kong, I need to have something like the World Clock app to help keep their times straight.

Misc Apps

  • Across the Room – Recommended to me by Jeff, I’ve found this helpful whether it’s delivering a message to friends in the same talk as me at a conference or sending a message to my husband when he’s sitting away from me in our front room. Of course, he steals my phone so that he too can play with this app. This is just a fun way to deliver a message, as the name suggests, across the room.
  • Coin Flipper – When you live in a house of indecision like I do, it helps to have a coin flipper for making decisions, especially if you don’t like carrying coins around.
  • Fandango – Whether it’s a girls’ night out to Sex and the City 2, a family trip to The Muppets, or a date night to the latest James Bond movie, I like having movie times and being able to purchase movie tickets right at my fingertips. I can see what’s now playing, what’s coming soon, and even what’s showing at nearby theaters – including showtimes for the current day!
  • FML - If you’re having a bad day and need something to make you laugh, just know that other people are having it as bad or worse. This app is great, showing the data from fmylife.com.
  • Geocaching - After a few of my college friends talked me into geocaching, I’ve found it to be a good excuse to get out of the house and a great way to explore cities. Take scavenger hunts to the next level with this GPS scavenger hunt-like activity. Whether I’m on my own or out with friends, I’ve always enjoyed figuring out where the cache is hidden.  This is tied into the geocaching.com database.
  • IMDb - Pulling data from the IMDB.com website, this app is great when you need to wow your friends with a quote from a movie or satisfy your curiosity of who was in the original Ocean’s 11.
  • Periodic Table – Have I ever mentioned that some of my friends are super smart when it comes to science?  If they ever get to talking about elementary topics, I’ve got a periodic table of elements on my phone to remind me how that was structured.
  • Portal Sounds – I’m a fan of the Portal games, and I’ve found that having the sounds at my fingertips can be a great distracting tool.  There have been times where my little nephew (who’ll be 2 in the spring) has started getting fussy, and I’ve played some of the Portal sounds which have caught his attention and got him to settle down.
  • Wikipedia - This app needs to words, other than it takes the data from the Wikipedia.com site.

Games

  • Angry Birds – Shooting birds to attack pigs… this game is an addicting puzzle game.
  • Bejeweled™ LIVE – I have to admit that I have a weak spot for PopCap games. The Bejeweled series was the first of their games that roped me in. I love this gem-matching game, whether I’m at the doctor’s office or stuck on a long ride.
  • Color Sprouts – a coloring book app, good for keeping kids distracted
  • Doodle Jump – a fun little game that makes great use of the accelerometer!
  • Fireworks - nice little app to create a distraction for little ones
  • Fruit Ninja – Be it on my Windows Phone or on Kinect, I have to admit that I am a fruit-slashing addict. On the phone, your fingers are what does the slashing. Slice and dice the fruit, and watch out for the bombs! This game is great stress relief!
  • Parachute Panic – Such a catchy theme song! It’s fun trying to land parachuting guys on boats while working around obstacles.
  • PvZ - I’ve got this on my PC and was super thrilled when I saw it was coming out for Windows Phone. I have this on my phone now as well, and I made it a point to unlock the Whack-a-Zombie mini game for yet another form of stress relief!
  • Swipy Man – Another game that makes physics fun, trying to land a stick figure guy on a platform.
  • Wordament - I’m a words-game junkie. Banagrams, Scrabble, Boggle, and Balderdash are just some of the word games I like playing in person. Wordament is a good Boggle-like game.
  • Toy Xylophone - You never know when you need to distract a kid or play as an accompaniment at Music Monday. Having a toy xylophone on the phone is just a silly thing to have on hand.

Conclusion

Got any apps on your phone that you’d like to recommend to others? Blog about it and post a link to your blog post here in the comments! I’d love to see how others are using their phones and what apps they find useful!

Others’ recommendations so far:

Microsoft Promoting Windows Phone App Building

I just noticed today’s date, and I’ve had my Windows Phone for about a year.  Has it been a year already?!?  Time flies when you have a phone that you like (and I truly like my Samsung Focus)!  But have you, as a developer, found yourself with a smart phone and a need for a particular app but couldn’t find the right app?  That’s an opportunity to build your own app!

The [Your App Here] Campaign

Yesterday, I received an email from Microsoft about their [Your App Here] advertising campaign program.  They’re looking for the next wave of great apps for Mango (Windows Phone 7.5) phones.  Unfortunately, this program is limited to developers in the United States.

The email mentions two campaigns – January and February – with respective submission deadlines of 11/16 and 12/22.  By submitting your app, you are entering for a chance to win placement in a digital Windows Phone campaign, with banner ads and up to a million impressions through the MSN Network.  The app will also be featured at the Windows Phone marketplace.

So that app you’ve been thinking about… maybe it’s time to build it and get others using it as well!  For more details, see The [Your App Here] Campaign site.

Windows Phone Camp Hands On Accelerator Lab

What better way to work on your Windows Phone app than to check out the Windows Phone Camp Hands On Accelerator Labs that Microsoft is hosting in various cities throughout the country?  Next week, Tuesday (11/15) through Thursday (11/17), Microsoft is hosting a 3-day camp in Columbus, OH to help you get your apps out to the Windows Phone market.  Whether you’ve got a totally new app idea or maybe have an Android, iPhone, or BlackBerry app that you want to see on Windows Phone, this can be a great opportunity to work with Microsoft resources on how to get your app built and out to the Windows Phone Marketplace.  For more details on the Columbus Windows Phone Camp Hands On Accelerator Lab, click here.

31 Days of Mango

My friend Jeff Blankenburg is a Developer Evangelist over at Microsoft who’s been passionate about Windows Phone for quite awhile.  He wrote a “31 Days of Windows Phone” series awhile back, and now he’s publishing his new series – 31 Days of Mango.  If you aren’t familiar with some of the new features in Windows Phone 7.5, then you really should check this series out.  I really like that these articles have pictures to go along with the descriptions, so that as the reader, we have some context as to what we should be seeing if we’re following along with the blog post.  There are plenty of resources in this series for working with Mango – to date, including emulator tools, reminders, motion, contacts API, and the calendar API. For more details, you can check this out at http://jeffblankenburg.com/31daysofmango.

Other Resources

There are plenty of resources for getting started with Windows Phone.  In addition to those above, you can always check out http://create.msdn.com.  With all of these resources at your fingertips and the need for an app on your Windows Phone, what are you waiting for?  Start your app today!

Ann Arbor Day of .NET 2011 Recap

Yesterday, I was up in Ann Arbor, Michigan for their Day of .NET event at Washtenaw Community College.  I wanted to thank some of the organizers – Jason Follas, Jay Harris, and Scott Zischerk – for making this happen.  I know how much work it takes to get one of these together, and without them, we wouldn’t have had an event in the first place.  Also thanks to the sponsors – Telerik, TechSmith, ComponentOne, and Applied Innovations – as they also made contributions to help make this a great event.

It was great to see so many of my friends yesterday, and it was great to see at least one speaker outside of the Heartland District.  I was glad to see David Hoerster made it out from Pittsburgh!  For me, I wanted to catch sessions that I’ve been meaning to catch for awhile or sessions that I could learn from to apply to my current projects.  Here’s what I caught yesterday.

Dealing with Data in a Mobile Application, presented by Jeff Fansler

In this presentation, Jeff talked about consuming data, storing data, and caching data.  We looked at sync vs. async and how those worked.  When it comes to storing data, Jeff mentioned three options – isolated storage, Sterling DB, and – now with Mango – SQL CE!  I was already familiar with isolated storage, since I’ve used it in my Silverlight apps.  However, I hadn’t seen examples of Sterling, and his example would have been a good guide for that.  I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a SQL CE example, as I have an app that I’m working on that would benefit from SQL CE.  But alas, I’ve got something new to learn!  The last thing Jeff covered was saving data – both on demand and as a background task.  Overall, I really enjoyed this talk and have a lot to take away from it.  If you were at AADODN and didn’t catch this, you can catch it again at CodeMash!

Going Independent, presented by Michael Eaton

As you may know, I have gone independent, as of August.  I’ve got a couple clients that I’m working on now, and I’m learning to balance my work demands and my life demands.  I caught this session at devLink this past August, and although I had already asked Mike for advice before this, I still learned a bit from it.  As he mentions – when you go independent, you typically aren’t 100% billable – you can’t really bill for invoicing, other accounting business, and other administrivia.  He also mentioned a bunch of other helpful tidbits for those getting started on going on their own.  Like he said in his presentation, the ideas he covers in his presentation are based on what he has experienced in this past decade, and each indie has a different story.  If you didn’t catch this session, it will be done as a PreCompiler at CodeMash!

Develop IT: Intro to PowerShell, presented by Sarah Dutkiewicz

I was asked by Jay Harris awhile back if I would consider submitting this talk to Ann Arbor Day of .NET, and since it’s my favorite talk to give, I was happy to oblige.  Once again, this session was for a packed room, with an interesting audience.  This time around, I didn’t speak to my help files as much as I have in the past.  However, I did continue to keep this slideless and work from a custom module.  You can download the module from http://qtlil.me/aadond2011ps.

I also managed to cut a little bit out so that I could mention Jim Christopher‘s StudioShell.  As a developer with a little bit of PowerShell background, you can make this tool work for you in ways you couldn’t imagine.  For example, we have a client who stored error messages in a class, but our business analysts wanted to maintain those messages.  Rather than manually creating the XML file that we had envisioned, I had one of my teammates show me what he was looking for format-wise, and I got it for him in a matter of minutes.  Most of the minutes were me waiting to install StudioShell in my VM – otherwise, with one line of code, I was able to extract the constant string variables’ names and values and put them into an XML file.

If you haven’t caught this presentation yet, I’ll be giving it in the Detroit, MI-area at MIGANG on February 15.  If you’re interested in hearing it at your user group, please contact me at sarah at codinggeekette dot com.

Stone Soup or Creating a Culture of Change, presented by James Bender

It was great to wind down from the conference with this session. Throughout this session, James talks of how to deal with change in a company.  One of my recent favorite phrases was near the beginning of this presentation – Change where you work or change where you work.  If things aren’t going the way you like, you can try implementing change in the workplace to  make things better.  For example, maybe you work at a company that seems to hesitate with developer training.  Rather than letting them slack in that department, you could encourage your teammates to learn by doing lunch’n’learns.  But let’s say that the company seems to be lacking in ways that you can’t change.  Then maybe it’s to change your work in terms of finding a new place to work.  This is one of many phrases and stories that James’ presentation suggests.  Unfortunately, he is retiring this talk for now.  But if you find yourself trying to initiate change in the workplace and have troubles, James is a good guy to talk with about that.

Conclusion

I unfortunately didn’t stay for the closing ceremony, as I needed to get on the road for a 3 hour ride back to Cleveland.  However, from what I’ve been able to experience, Ann Arbor Day of .NET once again turned out to be a great event, well worth the 6-hour total travel time.  I’m glad I drove up for it!  Thanks again to those who organized the event and made the event happen!

If you, my readers, haven’t had the chance to attend a Day of .NET event, you’re missing quite a bit.  Typically, for a small fee (approximately $10 nowadays), you can get a day’s worth of training from regional experts on a variety of topics.  It’s a great event to learn something new.  It’s also a great event for networking with those in the community, finding other people who have the same problems as you or who have had your problem and may have a solution.  You can always find more on Days of .NET at http://dayofdotnet.org/.  Hope to see you at one in the future!

devLINK 2011 Recap – Sadukie’s Tales, Part 2

After spending time with friends yesterday, I needed to take the morning off to catch up on my talks.  After reading my abstracts, I realized that my first presentation wasn’t setup right – it was more setup for a .NET developer user group and not purely intro level.  I reworked that talk to be purely intro level, in hopes that it’d be well-received.  I ran through both talks to make sure that they’d be fine for Thursday morning.  After catching lunch with one of my friends named Jeff, I made my way to the convention center.

Now I noticed on the devLINK site that there was something about the FREE Electric Shuttle through downtown.  Riding it reminded me of my days of riding the local buses here in Cleveland long ago.  It was nice to walk right across the driveway to catch the shuttle and take it to the convention center.

Once at the convention center, I figured out the lay of the land, visited with some of the sponsors including checking out the ComponentOne booth, and headed into a couple sessions.  The first session I caught was “Making (More) Money with Phone 7″ by Russell Fustino of GrapeCity.  I enjoyed seeing some tips and tricks for marketing apps on the Windows Phone marketplace – including tips for trial apps, globalization, and other ways to get your app noticed. I was really excited to see the  Runtime Intelligence Service instrumentation in action – some of my friends are at PreEmptive Solutions, which is around the corner from me in Cleveland. The second session I caught was “Managing the mentoring process”, facilitated by Randy Walker.  It was a great discussion with those attending the session on mentoring versus teaching versus managing and what our experiences have taught us.  I really enjoyed this discussion.

At the end of the day, a group of friends stopped for dinner before catching some of the attendee party at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel.  We ended up at Urban Stack – which specializes in burgers.  The Italian burger with sweet potato fries was messy, yet delicious.   Afterwards, I spent some time winding down by playing games with some of my friends.  Overall, it’s been a fun experience so far.

Gaming on the Mobile Platform…

My friend Jeff wrote an interesting post titled “Mobile games should revisit the past…“. Being a gamer myself, I figured I’d weigh in on this.

Intellivision Games taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/david_s_carter/3085049592/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Gamer Background

First of all, I’ve been gaming since Intellivision, when my dad introduced me to console gaming. From there, I’ve seen many console systems and played many games. Whether it was playing BurgerTime, Pacman, Blades of Steel, Tecmo Bowl, the Dragon Warrior series, Chrono Trigger, Sonic, or Bubsy (to name some of the games I used to play), I really enjoyed getting into the game. However, if you asked me if I’d play these on my phone, I’d probably say “no”.

Controlling the Game

While it’s great that phones now come with accelerometers and other nifty features that may be used in video controls, they really aren’t the same as the controllers of a console system. I can’t see myself tapping up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, Start on my phone.

Now granted… rather than having the D-pad for directional control, it could be cool if mobile games used the accelerometer to determine which way to move your avatar. But you still have the buttons to simulate, and those are different as well.

User Experience is Hard to Replicate

Recently, I tried Pacman on my Windows Phone, and it was an awful experience. If I dragged the guy on the direction pad to the direction I wanted him to go, then it would work. But really.. I’d rather just press the button or push the button in the direction and have him move – the action of sliding/dragging versus the action of pushing a button or moving a joystick are very different experiences.

Console controls of the past allowed for a lot of button mashing, directional pad moving, joystick jockeying. Mobile apps – you replace that experience with swiping, tapping, and shaking/determining movement based on the accelerometer. It’s a different user interface nowadays, which means a different user experience.

Mobile games going forward…

My challenge to mobile games developers is this – if you want to have a successful sale on your game, find a great game of the past and find a way to emulate the controls of yore with the technology of today. If you can capture that well, then it’s your world to succeed in!