Monthly Archives: May 2011

Behind the scenes of Mango: tidbits from Brandon Watson’s Channel9 videos

To coincide with the Mango press event several days ago, Channel9 posted three videos in which Brandon Watson interviewed members of the Windows Phone 7 development team regarding Mango-specific features. Whilst one might usually be skeptical about Microsofties interviewing each other, the videos were surprisingly insightful and full of interesting tidbits.

Here’s a few highlights I noted from the videos:

  • Developers can almost do with live tiles everything Microsoft could do. The exception being some animations that were deemed too battery intensive and are restricted from third party use. (Didn’t state example)
  • Background multitasking was the hardest challenge where the default response from performance team is “no” to anything that might consume more battery.
  • Sweet spot for background idle tasks is 15 seconds (subject to change). Profiled many standard devices, analyzed and optimized free CPU slices by moving around system tasks.
  • Worked with Microsoft Research to optimize generational garbage collection for ARM instruction set. The result of this is that third party applications running on Mango automatically benefit from roughly 20% less memory footprint.
  • Search-above-lock enables users to hold the search button from the lock screen to jump straight into Bing, similar to camera.
  • Local Scout was inspired by “pocket to suggestion in 7 seconds” mantra, get useful activities without any typed input.
  • Developer of Bing Vision required driver and pipeline optimization to ensure high camera frame rate whilst tracking and updating results live.
  • Threading by default will always respond with the same medium the received message was sent from (Facebook, TXT, Messenger).
  • Cut one feature that was determined to be too complex for the power – (vaguely described as) combining many communication concepts into a unified experience, issue being one screen that tried to do everything.

At just under 10 minutes each, I highly recommend these if you have a spare half hour. In no particular order, communications with Ian Todd, search with Jared Brown and application platform with Andrew Clinick.

Windows Phone 7 Mango features revamped SIP for Japanese; new emoticons and all

At MIX11, Microsoft announced as part of the forthcoming Windows Phone Mango update, support for several new East Asian languages will be added. It’s now revealed just how much the Windows Phone team has gone out of their way to optimize the soft input panel (SIP) experience for the languages.

For example, Japanese, one of the hardest languages to type with a keyboard (real or virtual) will feature a completely customized version of the touch keyboard with a drastically different layout and auto-completion interface. Most notably, the fewer keys have larger hitareas which takes up much more vertical space than the English counterpart. The press-and-hold behavior on the buttons is also visibly different.

As common with most East-Asian languages, the auto-completion engine will work not only with individual words but also complete sentences. To accommodate the wider variety of choices, tapping an arrow reveals a new screen with just auto-complete choices for easier selection.

And of course, true to the Japanese culture, it also features a unique and expansive set of Japanese emoticons that features Unicode characters not used in Western emoticons.

If it wasn’t obvious before, Microsoft is serious about breaking into the Asian market with Windows Phone 7 Mango. Although Microsoft’s geographic-restricted services is still a nightmare outside of the United States, it’s nice to see at least some internationalization plans coming to fruition.

Microsoft Research demos “copy-aware computing”: source control with a twist

Today, operating systems and software have made it exponentially easier to mash-up content, we’re likely to spend more time managing files than actually creating them.

Microsoft Researchers asked themselves, what would the computing experience look like if systems could track and surface copy relationships of files across applications, users and even networks. Luckily they also have an answer.

Through their research, they concluded that for a number of valid reasons users often make copies of the same file. Of note, the same “file” can also represent different filetypes of the same content such as a PDF version of a Word document. Together with attachments sent and received through collaboration, the flow of document versions is often hard to distinguish and even harder to visualize.

In an attempt to solve this problem, the researchers prototyped a companion application to the Windows Explorer shell to demonstrate “copy-aware computing”. One example of this is a “show history” menu option for files which visualizes a branching tree indicating the origins of the document and the versions that has been saved and emailed.

In another example, their prototype empowers users to search the filesystem based on workflow criteria such as files uploaded to Flickr or sent to a particular friend. The companion app also warns users if they are deleting the last of an unique version of a file.

Understandably the prototype is not refined at all, they do present an interesting opportunity for future operating systems to not only be aware of the changes to a single file, but a “versionset” – a collection of files with an ancestral relationship that maintains a link even when moved back and forth across devices and users.

WP7 Mango teaser video previews new features

As part of the official Mango unveil today, Microsoft released a pretty flashy promo video for Windows Phone 7 that showcases some of the new features coming to the next update including but not limited to threads, groups, multitasking, IE9 and Local Scout.

It’s worth noting there are still many improvements in Mango not demonstrated in the video, including the subtle addition of “predictive phrases” to the touch keyboard (ex. “happy b” will show “happy birthday”). Voice-to-SMS and SMS-to-text is another new feature that should be an instant hit with daily driving commuters.

Even though Ballmer’s “500 new features” is most likely an exaggeration and there’s still many highly-requested features not addressed (notably, tethering), Mango is shaping up to be a fairly solid update, a release that should make much more impact on market share than the original release.

Mango is scheduled for the beginning of “fall” which in real terms should be around September. Fortunately that gives users a few weeks to enjoy it before the postponed apocalypse in October.

Watch the Microsoft PDC that started it all

The Microsoft Professional Developers Conference family album is now online for public enjoyment. Noticed by Robert McLaws, Microsoft’s Channel9 evangelism team has just published an archive of all the PDC videos dating back all the way to the keynote from the first in 1992.

It’s easy to forget that only recently that streaming technology has made it possible for non-attendees to view keynotes live but of course, keynotes were not nearly as extravagant or hyped either. In fact in 1992 it’s just Bill Gates talking for a good 45 minutes (with distractingly large glasses). Having said that, there are still a few gems, like Steve Job’s appearance in 1996 and Jim Allchin’s infamous Longhorn demo of 2003.

Since many TV shows are wrapping up their seasons, this should last at least a few months, well until the “next Microsoft developers conference” in September which should be a treat.

.NET Micro Framework enables breathalyzer to tweet

There are many reasons to never tweet drunk, but reasoning is never high on the list of priorities under the influence. This is why you should just let this .NET-enabled breathalyzer mashup tweet for you.

Developer Matt Isenhower posted this cool project to Channel9’s Coding4Fun community today as a sample implementation of his MicroTweet Twitter library for the .NET Micro Framework. Together with Netduino Plus, an open source electronics platform and an alcohol gas sensor, he essentially created an internet-connected breathalyzer that tweeted the results.

As standard with Coding4Fun projects, the specific components and instructions on how he put this together are all available in the article. No doubts the end-user testing phase of the project required a certain level of commitment to the job.