Friday, August 20, 2010

How all EULAs should be written!

I haven't even finished installing Geosense for Windows but I love it already. Why? Because of their "lengthy license agreement".
I've copied it below:

Geosense for Windows
(license agreement, last updated February 26, 2010)

You cannot:
  • redistribute or transmit the software for profit purposes without permission. (We're nice people, so just ask.)

You can:
  • use the software for personal and commercial purposes.
  • make copies of software for backup or archival purposes. (We won't lose our copies, so don't worry too much.)
  • redistribute or otherwise transmit the software for non-profit purposes.

(Sinofsky was here.)

The "I agree" checkbox is even labelled nicely: "I authorize you to slap me if I violate the terms above"

It's so nice to be treated like a real person and be given something I can understand without needing an army of lawyers and a complete lack of a sense of humour.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why would you use PhoneGap for WP7Dev?

I've had more positive feedback about my PhoneGap code than I was expecting which is all very good, but a lot of people are still asking me "Why would you use PhoneGap to cerate a Windows Phone 7 application?"

There are two reasons:
1. You have a really, really good reason to want to develop with HTML & Javascript, rather than C# and XNA or Silverlight.
2. You want to create an application that will target multiple mobile platforms and you want to only write the code once.

It's this second option which PhoneGap was created for.

And for balance, here are some reasons for not using PhoneGap to create a Windows Phone 7 application:
  • You want to use some functionality which isn't available in the PhoneGap implmentation (and plug in support doesn't exist yet)
  • You want to use the power of Silverlight and XAML for creating your UI.
  • You want to use the power of XNA to create rich 3D graphics.
  • You want the benefits of using Visual Studio and Expression Blend.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

[WP7Dev] PhoneGap and Windows Phone 7

For all my talk and activities around Windows Phone 7 I'm aware I've shown very little about what I've been working on. Here's where I start to address this.
As you may have guessed by the title of this post, I've been looking at adding Windows Phone 7 support to PhoneGap.
For those of you who aren't familiar with PhoneGap it is "an open source development framework for building cross-platform mobile apps". It works by enabling apllicaitons written using the universal languages of HTML, JavaScript & CSS and compiling them into native apps for each supported platform.
I first used PhoneGap early last year when I needed to produce some proof-of-concept apps for the iPhone and I didn't fancy spending the time moving code to objective-C which I already had in JavaScript. (For the project in question it just wasn't worth the effort.) In the intervening time I've kept an eye on the PhoneGap project but not done much with it. I looked at its Windows Mobile support but didn't feel particularly motivated to do much with it. With the release of WP7 I found new interest in the project and am keen that apps developed for other devices/platforms can (where possible) be migrated to WP7 also. I have therefore written some code to try and implement this.

For those that are interested, the code can be found at I know that others have started some work on this also. (Most notably at I thought I would share what I've been doing to help the project. I'd already got further than the version by filmaj when I became aware of and have solved some issues they haven't dealt with yet.

So what is implemented?
In theory the easiest way to show what is implmented is show some test results. So here we are:

It passes 76 of 98 tests. Not bad. (Even if I say so myself).
As it's a shorter list, the tests that fail are the ones which relate to: HTML5 Storage, Contacts, File IO, Maps and methods which require objects being passed in their callback functions.
Some of these could possibly be implemented (File IO and possibly maps) but others just can't, due to limitations of the web browser control and the available APIs. Due to the way that interop with the browser control is implemented it's only possible to pass strings between the JavaScript and the C# code, it's not possible to pass objects to callback functions directly. In my code I have other functions which act as a wrapper to the callback functions so that they are passed appropriate objects but the automated tests don't pick this up.

It's probably a good time to point out that all I've done has only been tested in the Beta emulator. (I'd love to have a real device to test this on. Hint, hint!) Because some functionality requires can't be tested in the emulator, some of it is untested (e.g. navigator.notification.vibrate()) while other code always returns the same default values in the emulator.

How much functionality is implemented?

The following functionality is documented as supported across all platforms which PhoneGap supports:
Accelerometer: GetCurrentAccelleration is implemented but the watcher functions are not as these cannot be tested in the emulator.
Camera: getPicture is implemented but currently doesn't work properly as tombstoning of the app currently means that we lose all javascript references and so we don't have access to the callback.
Supporting tombstoning is the biggest issue with the current code. This could probably be worked around by storing all relevant callback details natively so they could be kept in state across deactivation/activation but I'd like to get some feedback on what I've done so far before spending more time on this.
Device: All features are implemented in JS, but limitations of the WP7 API currently mean that not all details are populated. It should be possible to get theses details with the release version of the API.
Events: deviceReady is not implemented as I have been unable to find a way to create events in the browser. It seems this can't be done, so I have implemented the PhoneGap.available property as a test for confirming loading.
Geolocation: getCurrentPosition is implemented (but returning a hardcoded vallue in the emulator). The watcher functions are not implemented as these cannot be tested in the emulator.
Network: this is implemented
Notification: this is fully implemented.

Additionally, the following other features are also implemented:
DebugConsole: log, warn and error methods
Orientation: getCurrentLocation and the watcher functions (as these can be tested in the emulator)
SMS: Send - triggers the compose functionality
Telephony: Call - triggers the request to make a call

To enable demonstration and testing of the implemented functionality I've created a simple app which demonstrates all the implemented features.

What else?
Other points of note in the code:
  • While it's possible to load a file included in the project (in the webbrowsercontrol) any files loaded this way can't reference other files (JS, CSS, image or ohter HTML files) A partial work around is to try and merge all content into a single file but this can't deal with images. The browser doesn't currenlty support the data protocol but will in the next version (according to an email I've had from the team) so we would have to live without images if we went that route. The alternative is to load all content into Isolated Storage and view it from there. This is what I've done. Also rather than specify all the files to load manually (I couldn't find a way to query these from the XAP) I'm using a T4 template to generate the list of files to load.
  • I'm using a command pattern to handle the different feature implementations. I'm using an abstract base class (PhoneGapCommand) for the commands and two optional interfaces to manage the variations in types of command (IAsyncCommand & IWatcherCommand). This works pretty well but feels like it could be better. I'm keen to discuss/explore alternatives to this.
  • I've implemented a custom back stack to support navigation between pages. This recreates the behaviour you'd see elsewhere if navigating between XAML pages or html pages in IE.
  • Because of the time it can take to load all the files to Isolated Storage and to prevent the webbrowser control being shown before the content has all loaded correctly I've had to implement my own version of the splash screen image. To use this the image must be set to a resource. In my code I have renamed the sample image to make this more obvious.

What next?
Ideally I'd like to contribute this code to the core project but I guess that will depend on what else others have done in terms of WP7 support.
There is also the key issue of how to work with (not around) the application model and how it affects javascript which really needs addressing before this could be considered publicly usable.

Please feel free to leave any feedback in the comments below, or in the discussion I'm about to start in the Google Group.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

4 touch points!

Just wanted to clarify something for a few people.

The Windows Phone 7 hardware specs state a MINIMUM of 4 concurrent multi-touch points. This is not a maximum as many people have being saying.

In theory OEMs could produce devices which support more than 4.

I just wanted to clear that up and warn anyone off hardcoding any support for a maximum number.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Will Windows Phone 7 be successful?

A few days back I posted a comment on this article about Windows Phone 7. I had some positive feedback about my comments via twitter - including the following from the author of the article:
"how long have I been doing this - 15 years? Quite the longest & most powerful comment I have ever seen. Thanks VERY much!"

I thought I'd repost some of it here:

Is Windows Phone 7 going to be popular enough to be worth considering developing apps for?

Obviously no one knows the answer for sure yet, but as you've probably guessed, I think they will be popular enough to invest my time learning about and developing applications for.
But why?
  • They are amazing devices. Please don't write them off till you've used one.
  • Microsoft knows this industry. Windows Mobile was really good back in the day and while they've drifted off course in the last few years all the evidence seems to be that they've been carefully watching the market change around them and learning from it. And they've also been learning from their own experiences. (Arguably, while Android re-make a lot of the mistakes which were made with Windows Mobile.)
  • Windows Phone is designed specifically for mobile use in a way that we've not seen on other devices before. Plus it's not trying to be something it isn't or shouldn't be - a PC on phone hardware.
  • Microsoft has spent the last 5 months trying to convince developers to build apps for the phones. And developers have been responding. There will be a lot of high quality apps available in the marketplace when the devices launch.
  • There are also a lot of desktop and web developers who are currently using Microsoft technologies who are keen to build for mobile as it
  • The (fully transparent) marketplace policies Microsoft are putting in place will ensure the quality of applications and avoid data security issues which are notorious on some other platforms.
  • Despite all the criticisms of a lack of hardware variations there are a lot of manufacturers signed up to produce devices. The fact they think they can make money selling devices which many think will be hard to differentiate from those of a different manufacturer should be seen as a string endorsement.
  • The email and calendar integration puts almost all other devices to shame. I've heard lots of people who have used actual devices say that they'd get one for that reason alone.
  • Xbox Live integration is a strong selling point for a lot of mobile gamers.
  • Microsoft is not afraid to try new things. And learn from them and move on if not successful. (Cough-Kin-cough)
  • Microsoft can't afford not to be successful. Mobile is the future and Microsoft needs to be there if they are to survive long term.
  • Plus I've heard from trusted sources what the ballpark marketing budget is. (My lips are sealed though.)
  • I've also noticed that a lot of the people who are panning the phone are the same people who said the iPad was pointless and no-one would ever buy one. ;)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

WPUG: the first meeting

You may remember that previously I mentioned that I was looking at setting up a User Group focused on Windows Phone development.

The good news is that the group had it's first meeting last week. You can read all about it at