• Marc A. Brown

Can this old dog learn new tricks?

I've started learning about developing apps for the Windows 8 Metro UI. I'm a rank beginner in the area of XAML, so I'm having to discover my way around that also. The templates included with Visual Studio 11 Express give you a pretty impressive start -- a working app, including sample data. Figuring out how the stuff works evaded me for a while, but I've begun to break through the block. I'm not at the point where I could build a multi-page app from scratch, but I feel confident about my ability to work with the split and grid application templates.

In looking through the API documentation for Metro, I discovered that there's no provision for direct database access. I think I understand the reasoning -- the push for everything in the cloud, the desire for small, fast, responsive apps. But it makes no sense for a completely local app to need a separate service to allow data storage. Why not allow SQL Server CE access, for instance? I see that you can serialize objects to XML, but I haven't attempted it yet, so I don't know how efficient it is, nor what pitfalls there are in doing so as a form of data storage.

My plan is to write more articles on this subject as I work my way through my first "real" app, discussing the speed bumps I hit along the way, the "gee whiz wow" things I find, and so forth.

  • Marc A. Brown

...wherein I express my continuing love for Windows Phone and my disgust with AT&T...

It's no secret that I love Windows Phone. When AT&T got their first Windows Phone devices, I was right there, snapping up a Samsung Focus. When the Samsung Focus S came out a year later, I was there again. My experience with my first Focus convinced my sister-in-law to get one. One of my sons got the Focus Flash when it came out and my daughter and son-in-law each use a first generation Focus. All of this based on my experience and recommendation.

I still highly recommend the platform. I think it's a simple yet elegant UI, blazing fast, and at least as easy to use as any smartphone platform out there. It's also, at least in my experience, extremely stable with very few noticeable bugs. There are tons of apps (yes, I know, 70,000 isn't half a million or however many Apple has now, but still...), and the availability of Zune Music Pass for use with Windows Phone makes for an awesome music experience.

Now, you'll notice that I mentioned bugs in the previous paragraph. I said there were few noticeable bugs. That doesn't mean the platform is bug-free, but then there is no such thing as a bug-free piece of software. One bug that's particularly annoying is the infamous "disappearing keyboard" bug. I get bitten by this one occasionally and it's quite irritating, especially when it disappears several times in rapid succession or when I'm trying to fill in a web form and the keyboard won't come back as long as I'm on that page. Well, Microsoft has fixed that bug with their most recently released update to the platform, the "8107" update. Sadly, however, AT&T has decided not to allow this update, as well as the previous bugfix update (the "7740" update) to be released to "their" phones.

So let's see, I purchased a carrier-locked phone with the understanding that I would be receiving security and bug fixes and now, less than six months later, the carrier who sold me the phone is saying that I can't have those security and bug fixes? Who, besides AT&T, thinks this is right? AT&T is Microsoft's "premier" partner for Windows Phone in the US and they can't be bothered to allow these important updates out the door? As I said in a tweet on the subject earlier in the day, what a crock. Microsoft has done their job, but AT&T is slapping their customers in the face. I guess their "Death Star" logo is apt. Perhaps it's time for a second break-up of this "evil empire"?

Do I still love Windows Phone? Heck yeah! Do I still recommend it? Yes! But AT&T? Not so much. I understand why they always get such poor ratings from their customers. I am no longer a happy customer of theirs. I'm not going to froth at the mouth and claim that I'm leaving them when the family contract is up -- their coverage map matches my travel habits too well for me to do that, unfortunately. but I don't see myself being a happy customer of theirs again any time soon. This situation is just too ridiculous.

Thanks to Paul Thurrot's "Supersite for Windows" for clueing me in to this unpleasant news.


Since publishing this post, I have seen this post from wpcentral. This indicates that we will eventually get a later update than the ones mentioned above which means that the older updates will also get installed. I'm certainly not going to take it for granted -- I could see AT&T end-of-life-ing the current phones once the Nokia Lumia 900 hits their stores. But at least I have hope that we're going to get updates. And hopefully the update they're talking about will be the Tango update.

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  • Marc A. Brown

Why is it that we get so wrapped up in our favorite tech that we feel the need to belittle other people's favorites?

If you've read my previous article, Thoughts on Windows 8, you know that I'm running the Windows 8 consumer preview as my only OS at home. It's not without its issues, of course, but overall it's been a great experience. In that piece, I mentioned that there were two games I wanted to install using the GameStop (formerly Impulse) installer software. Those two games, Demigod and Sins of a Solar Empire, wouldn't install because the GameStop installer claimed they weren't compatible with my OS. On Wednesday, I did a bit of searching to see if others had tried this and encountered the same issue. Well, as it turns out, I was able to find at least one other person with the same problem. No resolution to the issue, except to be patient since no one is likely to work very hard to support their production software on a non-production OS, which is what I expected. That's not the point of this article.

The point of this article is that, in the conversation thread I found, the final post was from someone who felt it important to take the opportunity to belittle the person asking the question for running a Microsoft OS and to belittle Microsoft itself for producing terrible products. Now, I'll freely admit that I've done my share of MS-bashing in the past; however, I don't recall having bashed the people who used that MS tech for using it. These days, I've become quite the MS fan (my friends would most likely say "fanboi" and they might be right). But my preference for their products doesn't mean that I belittle my iPhone-toting friends (well, not for real anyway -- we like to joke about it and I get as good as I give). My preference for the Barnes & Noble nook doesn't mean that I think Kindle owners are losers. I wouldn't want an iPhone or iPad, but I understand why some people do. And as long as they're happy with their tech choice, I'm happy for them.

That's the key -- pick the tech that works for you. Let me pick the tech that works for me and don't belittle me for that choice. How does my tech choice affect your self-esteem so badly that you have to prop yourself up by trying to knock me down? Why is it that some among us feel the need to anonymously engage in behavior that would get us beat up in real life? I guess I'm just wondering why we can't all grow up and just get along. Trolls, if you'd climb out from under your bridges and spend a little time in the sun, you might find that the world is a beautiful place.