Monthly Archives: April 2011

First look at the future of application deployment on Windows 8: AppX

In an app-centric world, Windows 8 will be adopting the trend full-on with a Swiss Army Knife of new tricks. One of which is a new universal application deployment system called AppX which I’ve been recently been able to take a first look at.

Although Windows 8 will disrupt many components of applications, including how they are written (Immersive) and distributed (application store), AppX concerns only the deployment aspect of applications. More precisely, it’s a tight specification that describes how applications are packaged and installed.

Clearly inspired by XAPs for Silverlight, the critical aspect of AppX packages is an XML manifest file appropriately named the “AppXManifest.xml”. In this file, developers will have to specify many compulsory and optional attributes of their application, in fact, much more than what’s required from Windows Phone developers.

From a specifications document it’s revealed attributes include but are not limited to:

  • Application identity – name, publisher, version
  • Application architecture – processor architecture, type of application, framework required, operating system version
  • Dependencies – name, publisher and minimum version of other required applications
  • Capabilities – networking, file system and profile capabilities requested by the application
  • OS extensions – associated filetypes and protocols, AutoPlay, “Charms”, notifications, splash screen
  • Tile customization – logo, name, description and colors for the tile-based user interface

The extensive list of properties signifies the comprehensive scope of this system to be the ideal deployment strategy for “applications”, in all essence of the word. In fact, the AppX format is universal enough so it appears to work for everything from native Win32 applications to framework-based applications (WPF, Silverlight) and even *gasp* web applications. Games are also supported.

Not only will this help developers improve the application experience, but also for end-users. It’s undeniable AppX will tie into the Windows 8 application store to deliver a more consistent experience to download and install apps, including the ability to review the security-based capabilities the application will request.

As both a developer and end-user, this is exactly what Windows needs to streamline the application experience for the platform whose current laissez-faire strategy is no longer suitable for the times.

Microsoft enters the drug business with redesigned Security Essentials website

Moments ago, I tweeted that I noticed Microsoft’s Security Essentials website got a redesign and it reminded me of a corporate pharmaceutical website.

With the help of Wikipedia, I came across the website for Novartis, the world’s fifth pharmaceutical company by revenue. The similarities are uncanny. It turns out marketing drugs is not too different than anti-virus software.

Come to think of it, maybe they should give out pill-shaped USB drives loaded with the MSE installer. That would be kind of cool.

Update: This is a light-hearted post, not to be taken seriously.

Windows 8 Explorer teases file syncing and web sharing

Image credit: Rafael Rivera / withinwindows.com

Earlier today, Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott released the second batch of screenshots featuring unlocked features inside the latest build of Windows 8 to be leaked. It’s apparent now Microsoft is committed to bringing the Ribbon user experience (otherwise known as Windows Scenic) to the heart and soul of Windows, the Explorer.

Although its not fair to judge the Ribbon implementation in its current infancy state, two user interface elements are worth pointing out that hints at some exciting new file syncing and sharing features baked right into the operating system.

Since these functions appear to be dormant in this particular build, I can only speculate “Sync” would offer functionality similarly to Windows Live Mesh to synchronize folders across computers. On top of that, “Web sharing” might enable SkyDrive-like functionality to make their files and folders accessible through a web URL, for easy sharing with friends and family.

Of course both of these features are consistent with the overarching “Windows + Cloud” strategy that combines the best of local and cloud computing. Perhaps this is only the beginning of the Windows and Windows Live convergence.

Hack to get early internal Mango update for your WP7 (April fools)

Inspired by the Windows Phone 7 “NoDo” update trick making the rounds this week, Chris Walsh and I have come up with a way to get something even better, an early in-development version of the Mango update. Read and act quickly before Microsoft wises up.

The hack, albeit extremely simple in retrospect, involves overriding the update server which the phone checks to a Microsoft staging server (-int) used for testing. It just so happens the current one is hosting build 7510, an early build of the upcoming Mango release.

Of course not all the features work correctly. For example, Internet Explorer 9 does not work at all. On the other hand, SkyDrive and multitasking appear to work flawlessly. It’s also impossible to test the background download or audio services without any third-party app support.

The update is similar to the NoDo update so it will back up your phone allowing you to revert to NoDo if it’s too unstable for you.

Without a further ado, the directions. Enjoy.

  1. Edit your HOSTS file under “%WinDir%\System32\Drivers\ETC\hosts
  2. Add an entry “updateservices.windowsphone-int.com updateservices.windowsphone.com
  3. Download USAIP and connect to any US-based VPN (ex. USAIP L2TP California)
  4. Use username “demo” and password “demo”
  5. Connect your Windows Phone 7 to the PC and start Zune
  6. Disable WiFi on the phone
  7. Open “phone” settings on the phone
  8. Manually search for an update within Zune
  9. After a few seconds (~15 seconds) disable data connection on the phone
  10. Enjoy the sweet juicy fruits of your labour