Hereâs some of the things I expect to happen this year as a result of the leap year:
And then thereâs the ordinary issues with dates that programmers canât understand â like the fact that there are more than 52 weeks in a year. âASSERT(weeknum>0 && weeknum<53);â, anyone? 52 weeks is 364 days, and every year has more days than that. [Pedantic mathematical note â maybe this somewhat offsets the âemployerâs extra dayâ item above]
Happy Leap Day â and always remember to test your code in your head as well as in real life, to find its extreme input cases and associated behaviours. Theyâll get tested anyway, but you donât want it to be your users who find the bugs.
Microsoft released an update to the Zune software. Of course, this hasnât fixed any of my usual complaints about the inability to properly handle Podcasts, sorting and managing them, but it does make me convinced that weâre moving right along in the process to release a new version of the Windows Phone 7 OS.
To get your Zune software update, simply open your existing version of Zune, select Settings (in very small font on the top, towards the right-hand side), then under âSoftwareâ on the left, youâll find an item âGeneralâ. Select this, and scroll the right-hand side until you see âSoftware updatesâ and âCheck for updatesâ come into view. Click on âCheck for updatesâ, and follow the instructions from there.
Iâve had my new phone â an HTC HD7 âSchubertâ for nearly four months now.
For the most part, Iâm enjoying it â as a phone, it works fine. Iâm still trying to get my fingers and thumbs to thump the keyboard in the right way to avoid making spelling mistakes. But thatâs not too bad.
The screen controls â dragging, flicking, pinching and tapping my way to multi-touch success â work really intuitively, and I love the fact that I can take a picture within seconds of pulling the phone out of my pocket, while the iPhone guys are still fumbling through their unlock code.
Updating is handled well, IMHO, with a link to your PC required, as much so that you can have a full backup taken of your phone, as it is to do with increasing the speed of the overall operation. If youâve done like I have, and filled your phone with podcasts, video and music, this can take some considerable time to back up, which makes the update process perhaps a little too long. A future version of this might choose to ignore backing up those items on the phone which can be restored from the Collection.
I was thoroughly impressed with the speed by which the certificate update was shipped through T-Mobile. Obviously, with each carrier able to stop and delay any update Microsoft issues, this could become an issue in future. If I canât rely on mobile devices within my organisation being patched against known vulnerabilities, I canât comfortably allow them access to the network. Of course, you could level the same accusation against the iPhone in spades â after all, with all the jailbreaking that goes on with that device, what you have are a pile of modified systems, not managed or secured, and able to lie convincingly about security policies they have implemented.
Much like other phones, itâs difficult to filter the good from the dross. Microsoft selects some good âFeaturedâ apps, but Iâd also like to see some means of better filtering on the app selection. Writing one reader program, and putting a hundred free texts into it, does not mean youâve published a hundred apps. This is especially true for local TV News apps, Realtor apps, transport navigation apps, indexes of lawyers, blog feeds â yeah, really itâs especially true of everything, if that was ever a meaningful thing to say.
Having said that, thereâs all sorts of cool apps available for the phone, and Iâm sure that for all the apps Iâve found, there are equivalents on other phones, and that there are numerous exclusive apps only for this phone or that. I can say that I have not been disappointed by the selection of apps on my phone. I donât find some niche apps, but then I donât find those for the other phones either.
All the apps that youâd expect to find are here. Even Angry Birds now, which apparently have to be present for a phone to be considered complete. Of course, Chicks ânâ Vixens is available for the Windows Phone 7, but not for other platforms, so thatâs a win.
Once youâve installed a few apps, the ability to âpinâ a number to the main menu helps enormously, but even so, it can be a trifle daunting to make your way through the single list of apps that you get when you wander off the main menu. Itâd be nice to have the ability to group apps, and maybe to copy the Music folderâs ability to navigate by the initial letter of the album.
In its favour, however, the flick and tap technique is so intuitive and easy to use that this is almost not a problem at all. But thatâs a very weak plus, compared to the effort it should take to implement a grouping / filtering feature.
Itâs an excellent feature, being able to use my Bluetooth headset instead of plugging into the phone. Sadly, itâs not exactly complete. I canât tell you how startled I was to open up a YouTube video and find that, instead of privately broadcasting into my ears, it was actually making lots of noise that everyone else in the room (apart from me) could hear.
I thought that was just YouTube, because their app is quite frankly one of the crappiest implementations possible. Iâd recommend the HTC YouTube app in preference, if you have an HTC phone.
Sadly, no. The phone does not transmit the audio from playing videos over Bluetooth to a headset. Perhaps this was intended to be a safety feature, so that you canât try and watch a video while driving, but I think itâs important to recognise that many of us have Bluetooth headsets that we like to use while commuting. So, please, enable Bluetooth headsets for watching video, and donât think about disabling it based on speed. Like I said, I use my phone to watch videos and listen to radio podcasts while Iâm riding the bus.
I donât know, perhaps the onus should be on the car driver to ensure the safety of himself, his passengers, and everyone else on the road. Someone whoâll try to watch a video while driving will also be texting while driving, shaving, reading a newspaper, applying makeup, solving a Rubikâs cube, etc. Yes, Iâve seen all this out the window of the bus â I even have a really blurry picture of the guy solving the Rubikâs cube, but focusing through two windows while going at speed isnât the phoneâs strong point.
Still where I spend a lot of my time.
Hand-made podcasts (not subscribed from a URL) are still supported like arse, and need some work. Think about audio books, radio shows from CD, ripped to MP3, etc.
No graphics, no navigation other than âscroll up and downâ, no consideration to the thought that a podcast might be longer than about twenty characters.
Sorting of podcasts in the phone is in a different order from their sorting in the Zune software, so you canât reasonably manage the relationship between your collection and the phone.
And once you have a podcast of several episodes, it is often (almost always) out of order. No respect for Track #, Part of Set or other ID3 tags that would allow the Zune software on the phone to figure out what order to play episodes in. My absolute favourite is when a podcast is listed in exactly reverse order.
In the same vein, itâd be really nice if you could cue up (or queue up) multiple podcasts to play one after another. You could call it, oh, I donât know, a list for playing â List Oâ Play, perhaps. Iâm sure Microsoft could come up with a simpler term than that, if they were to only implement the feature. On a long journey, Iâd like to be able to say âI want to listen to this episode, then that one, then this one over hereâ, and then put the phone back into my pocket, while I sit back and listen.
Itâs clear that Microsoft doesnât have a use-case around podcasts for the Zune or the Windows Phone 7, and that they donât have any staff who actively use podcasts, or audio books, etc. While I appreciate that the goal with the Zune was to provide a music-listening experience, podcasts and audio books are also important ways to use a device that plays and manages audio. Iâd like to see that taken into consideration.
My original WP7 device (an HTC HD7, aka âSchubertâ) has become a vampire.
This started just after I applied the NoDo update, and while I was traveling to the UK, although I think both of these events are unrelated. The phone was less than two weeks old when this behaviour started.
Every battery I stick in the phone gets drained, and although the phone pops up the requisite âIâm charging your batteryâ icon, the battery never gets charged.
So Iâve asked for a replacement phone. That in itself was a pain.
Despite the words âT-Mobileâ on the box, on the phone, and T-Mobile requiring I sign up for a 2-year contract, T-Mobile wonât service the replacement â or if they will (and they seem unclear on the idea), they canât guarantee I wonât get a refurb.
So, I go back to Amazon Wireless, where I bought the phone originally.
Perfect behaviour from them, as expected â a new phone is shipped immediately to me, and I get to spend a little time with the two phones as I transfer data to and fro.
Bizarrely, I have to charge a battery in the new phone in order to be able to use the old phone at all. I canât even drive it purely from the mains cable.
And now I have to figure out how to get my phone information onto the new phone.
Outlook is the easiest one â because it only hooks into Exchange, all I have to do is provide my new phone with the account details (email address and password), and I have all my email transferred.
People come across fairly easily too â either from Outlook or Windows Live, or by going to the Settings menu, sliding to Applications, then selecting People, from which you can âimport SIM contactsâ.
Applications that Iâve bought through the Zune software come across immediately. Applications that I bought through the phone, they donât come across at all. Fortunately, I hadnât actually purchased anything at that point, so I only had to deal with getting the free apps. Nor could I persuade the Zune software to download those apps that I had purchased through the phone, even though they clearly werenât on my new phone.
Of course, all the settings in those applications â high scores, achievements, account settings, etc â not able to be ported over. Rather irritating, really. This portion of setting up the new phone took the most time of all.
The Zune software does a credible job of allowing you to copy information out of one phone and into your collection, and then from your collection back into the phone. Iâve written before about how awkward the Zune software is with my Podcasts, and this experience doesnât really improve on that in any way.
Overall, itâs fairly certain that the use-case of having to move from one phone to another is not considered by Microsoft to be a significantly common requirement. I certainly hope I donât have to do this again.
But I do wonder if there could be some form of standard for migrating settings and purchased apps â this was a tedious process in all, as I went through re-finding all the apps I had installed, and dealing with the Zune softwareâs reluctance to fetch applications that had already been installed on another phone.
Those apps that were easy to move over, it seemed more as an accident than good design, as these apps are based around storing their data off the phone. Iâd like to see developers think about deliberately surprising their users with good behaviour, instead.
It certainly looks that way.
Here are the clues:
I am sure that weâll see Microsoft continuing to supply Music and Video for sale through the regular Zune software, but the app market is clearly about to be killed offâŠ unless, that is, Microsoft is just spending a little extra time before releasing a version of the XNA Game SDK 4.0 that supports Zune HD.
I think thatâs pretty much unlikely.
So, if youâre buying a Zune HD today, Microsoftâs message appears to be that you are not going to get any apps other than the ones that are already available.
That seems rather disappointing â the Zune HD has touch, accelerometer and a graphics chip capable of some great 3D (check out the racing game, Project Gotham Racing Ferrari Edition for an example), but the current XNA Game SDK for it provides no hardware 3D support.
Youâll remember, from my previous posts (Zune HD â but not mine, Finally got my Zune HD, Messing around with audio files, Woot got my Zune, Zune canât get my woot!, All Zune posts) on the subject, that I had some specific complaints about the Zune and its attendant software that I was hoping Microsoft would one day get around to fixing.
Zoom (Zume?)to this past week, and we saw Microsoft release a new version of the Zune software, so letâs see if thereâs been any advance:
Images in MP3 files marked as Podcast and dumped into Podcast folder are not displayed in Zune Software or on Zune.
MP3 files in Podcast folder are not played in order by track number.
MP3 files in Podcast folder lose their Genre, and canât be sorted by Genre.
MP3 files in Podcast folder canât be rapidly navigated by alphabet.
Impossible to list Podcasts in the same order on the Zune and the PC, so as to compare visually, one by one, which ones youâve heard. [No, this isnât ideal, but even this would be better than current]
Zune Internet browser canât access SSL sites like woot.com, with unexpected SSL root certificates.
No Flash in the Internet browser
Canât tell on the PC which Podcasts youâve listened to on the Zune (and in general, managing the relationship is sucky)
Now, the PC greys out individual podcasts youâve listened to, but not the podcast series, so you have to click on each podcast series to see if itâs been listened to.
And if you use this to delete podcasts or a podcast series that youâve listened toâŠ it doesnât actually delete them from your hard drive. This is infuriating, because it makes it fundamentally impossible to manage local podcasts.
And all this despite the Zune software warning you that itâs going to delete the series and its episodes PERMANENTLY:
OK, so there are some more apps. Still want more. But thatâs probably not going to happen, because in what appears to be a bout of sheer bloody-mindedness, although XNA Game Studio 3.1 (for Zune HD) is a subset of the functionality of XNA Game Studio 4.0 (for Windows Phone 7), XNA Game Studio 3.1 only works in Visual Studio 2008, and XNA Game Studio 4.0 only works in Visual Studio 2010.
What this means is that a developer canât build the same project, in one development environment, for Zune HD and Windows Phone 7, even though it would be possible to make the same game work on both platforms with the same source code.
If this isnât a temporary problem, itâs going to make me and the other five Zune HD users really feel disenfranchised.
Although the new Zune software doesnât start up the moment I plug in my Zune (maybe Iâm missing a setting), the Marketplace Apps listing has come back, along with three new games, âCastles and Cannonsâ, âDr. Optics Light Labâ, and âWordMongerâ:
and one new, very welcome, app, âWindows Live Messengerâ:
No update for the Zune HD itself, yet â I was hoping that maybe theyâd fixed the web browser issues I was facing with Woot.
I kind of expected that the arrival of the Windows Phone 7 would cause an update to the Zune software interface. Sure enough, as soon as I tried to download a new episode of âThe Guildâ, an update was forced on me, along with a new licence agreement.
What I didnât expect was thisâŠ
Yes, thatâs right, select one of the Genres, either âGamesâ or âOtherâ, and this is what you get â âThere are no apps for this selectionâ. I can only presume this is a foul-up by Microsoft, and not an example of ânew product comes out, old product goes straight into the binâ.
At least, thatâs what I hope.
As a big fan of The IT Crowd, Iâm a happy reader of the author, Graham Linehan,âs blog, âWhy Thatâs Delightful!â. It certainly helps to explain to American viewers tonightâs episode. And yes, I did try and persuade Microsoft to give Moss an MVP award. Maybe I should have suggested Roy instead, since he mostly does windows.
However, the other day, looking for the blog on a machine on which my bookmarks donât reside, I was rather shocked to see âWhy, thatâs delightful!â, when I typed in what I thought was Mr Linehanâs blog address. Totally not the site I was looking for. I was completely unprepared. I hope Graham Linehan knows he has a competitor for the same search meme.
Graham Linehan is the author (along with Arthur Mathews) of that other staple of British (or Irish?) humour, âFather Tedâ (memorable, also, for being produced by the late Geoffrey Perkins, of Radio Active and Hitch-Hikerâs fame). If youâve not seen them yet, go watch them â rent them on Netflix, watch The IT Crowd on IFC, and Father Ted on wherever you can find it in this country, whatever you have to do to make this a part of your comedy intake.
But beware of imitations, when it comes to your favourite blogs.
[And donât try and use Windows Media Center to sync The IT Crowd from IFC to your Zune, because IFC marks all their programming for DRM, with the aim that it canât be copied. Boo, hiss, IFC.]
Quite some time ago, my wife was very sneaky. Oh, sheâs sneaky again and again, but this is the piece of sneakiness that is appropriate for this post.
I logged on to woot.com one day, as I often do, and saw that there was a 30GB Zune for sale â refurbished, and quite a bit cheaper than most places had it for sale, but still more than I could plonk down without blinking.
I told my wife about it, and she told me that no, I was right, we couldnât really afford it even at that price.
Then, months later, I found that my birthday present was a 30GB Zune â the very one from woot that she said we couldnât afford.
Ever since then, Iâve been a strong fan of Zune and woot alike.
The other day, though, it dawned on me that I could use my Zune (now I have a Zune HD 32GB) to keep up with wootâs occasional âwoot-offâ events, where they proceed throughout the day to offer several deals. Unfortunately, I canât actually buy anything from woot on the Zune.
I couldnât figure this out for a while, and assumed that it was simply a lack of Flash support.
Itâs not immediately obvious that thereâs a difference between the Zune having no Flash support, and the iPhone having no Flash support.
But there is â and itâs a little subtle.
The Zune doesnât have Flash support because Adobe havenât built it.
The iPod doesnât have Flash support because Apple wonât let Adobe build it.
I did a little experimenting, and itâs not that woot requires Flash.
I tried to logon directly to the account page at https://sslwww.woot.com/Member/YourAccount.aspx (peculiar that, the URL says âYour Accountâ, but itâs my account, not yours, that I see there. Thatâs why you shouldnât use personal pronouns in folder names).
That failed with a cryptic error â âCanât load the page you requested. OKâ
No, itâs not actually OK that you canât load the page, but thanks for telling me what the problem was.
Oh, thatâs right, you didnât, you just told me âfailedâ. Takes me right back to the days of âError 4/10â.
The best I can reckon is that, since the Zune can visit other SSL sites, and other browsers have no problem with this SSL site, the Zune simply doesnât have trust in the certificate chain.
That should be easy to fix, all I have to do on my PC, or on any number of web browsers, is to add the siteâs root certificate from its certificate chain to my Trusted Root store.
Sadly, I can find no way to do this for my Zune. So, no woot.
I think this would â for a start, it would mean that users could add web sites that were previously unavailable to them â including test web sites that they might be working on, which are supported by self-signed test certificates.
But more than that, adding a new root certificate to the trusted root certificate store on the Zune is a vital feature for another functionality that people have been begging for. Without adding a root certificate, it is often impossible to support WPA2 Enterprise wireless mode. So, the âadd certificate to my Zuneâs Trusted Root storeâ feature would be a step toward providing WPA2 Enterprise support.
Iâm not sure that the interface would have to be on the Zune itself â but perhaps the Zune could stock up failed certificate matches to pass to the Zune software, and then ask the operator of the Zune software at the next Sync, âdo you want to trust these certificates to enable browsing to these sites?â
Similarly, for the WPA Enterprise mode, it could ask the Zune software user âdo you want to connect to this WPA Enterprise network in future?â