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 Saturday, December 11, 2010

I have a WP7 device: the HTC HD7.

I’ve had it for a while now (since launch date in the US), but wanted to wait a little before blogging about it to really get a good feel for what I do and don’t like.

Also, by way of disclaimer, I’m coming to WP7 from Windows Mobile 6.5, so I can’t compare and contrast to other modern phones like iPhone or Droid.

In short, I really like Windows Phone 7, but there are better devices than the HD7 (unless you are on T-Mobile).

Coming from an older phone like I did, the new WP7 phone OS is remarkable. Wonderful. Truly a joy to use! And the HD7 has enough cpu, graphics and memory to make it fast and very enjoyable.

My only real issue is that the HD7 device’s camera button is so hard to push that it is almost impossible to take a good picture, which makes the camera nearly useless. That’s not the fault of WP7, that’s the fault of some HTC engineer with overdeveloped finger muscles or something…

The WP7 user experience is smooth and intuitive. It is loosely based on the Zune HD user experience, but Microsoft clearly learned a lot from the Zune HD about what did and didn’t work, and the phone’s user experience is consistently pleasant and easy.

One of the most touted features of the phone are the the “live tiles” on the home page. And they are nice. I’ve got mine customized to show phone, people, email and weather on the very first page, with messages and a few other commonly used items further down. There are a few other apps I’ve used now and then that I haven’t put on the home page, because it is just as easy to get to them using the voice navigation.

The cool thing though, is that the weather status and my wife’s Facebook status are shown on that front page through the live tiles, so the most important information is always right there Smile

I’ve downloaded some free and commercial apps from the Marketplace. That’s a seamless experience, and includes seamless updates of the apps as they become available. My only quibble with the Marketplace is that it doesn’t seem to filter between apps, music, videos, etc. So sometimes searching for an app can be tedious because it seems that a lot of songs use the same words in their titles, so it can take some time to sift through the songs to find the app you want…

In terms of apps, there are only three apps I am missing at this point:

  1. Bing (I want the voice-prompted navigation that comes with the Bing app – the built-in Maps app is ok for maps, but horrible for actual driving navigation)
  2. TripIt (the mobile web access is OK, but a smart client experience would be a lot better)
  3. EverNote (here the smart client (with offline caching of notes) is really important, and the web interface is a poor substitute – enough so that I’m considering migrating back to OneNote where I can share everything on my SkyDrive)

In terms of phone features, the only thing missing is tethering and/or using the phone as a wifi hub. My 6.5 phone did both of those things and I used them constantly, so losing this ability is a serious drawback. If I wasn’t such a Microsoft loyalist the lack of tethering would probably have prevented me from getting this phone – but as it is I’ve chosen to live with the pain.

On the other hand, the way WP7’s “hubs” integrate together is wonderful. The People and Pictures hubs, for example, automatically pull data from Facebook, Live, Outlook and so forth – automatically bringing together nearly all the information I care to see about everyone I interact with. This type of automatic data integration is amazingly useful, and directly increases my productivity from a business and inter-personal perspective.

And of course the fact that the phone is a Zune device (and so can use my beloved zune.net subscription) is just icing on the cake. While I still carry my Zune HD when traveling because it has enough memory to hold all my songs, I do have a couple Smart DJ playlists synced to the phone for times when I’m sitting somewhere and just need a little music. I always have the phone, but don’t always have the Zune HD.

Finally, there’s Netflix. The high-res screen on the phone makes watching video content reasonably enjoyable. Not comparable to a TV or even laptop screen of course, but certainly workable. So again, when I’m sitting somewhere and feel like a little diversion there’s always Netflix content available.

Would I recommend that someone get a WP7 device? Absolutely – WP7 is a joy to use!

Would I recommend the HD7? Probably not, but if you are on T-Mobile you are kind of stuck… And really, other than the stupid camera button, it is a perfectly decent phone (I really like the large screen and overall form factor).

Saturday, December 11, 2010 4:17:17 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [13]  | 
 Friday, December 10, 2010

I just put CSLA 4 version 4.1 beta 2 online for download. This is probably the last beta release of version 4.1, so please download and try it – I appreciate any help I can get in testing these releases.

http://www.lhotka.net/cslanet/download.aspx

The primary changes in beta 2 include:

  1. Added a new Csla.Xaml.PropertyInfo control for WP7, WPF and Silverlight that is like PropertyStatus but totally non-visual. See the Samples\NET\cs\SimpleNTier solution’s WP7 UI project for an example of how this works
  2. Created a copy of the DataAnnotations functionality for WP7; this is a nice concept that Microsoft didn’t put into WP7, so I ported the parts of System.ComponentModel.DataAnnotations required by CSLA .NET, so if you have classes using DataAnnotations attributes in .NET or Silverlight, that code will now work in WP7 as well
  3. Laying the groundwork for a NuGet installer when 4.1 is released, so people will be able to download and install CSLA 4 via NuGet (thanks Jaans!)
  4. Laying the groundwork for a vsix installer for Visual Studio templates, so when 4.1 is released we can add this to the Visual Studio gallery (thanks Jonny!)

I’ve also put an updated draft of Using CSLA 4: Creating Business Objects online at http://download.lhotka.net/Default.aspx?t=UsingCsla4

This ebook is incomplete, but I’m providing work-in-progress drops of the book as I work on it. People who’ve purchased the entire Using CSLA 4 ebook series (from http://store.lhotka.net/) can download this pre-draft content. This new drop includes a lot more content than the previous drop – including the entire sections on declaring and implementing properties and methods, and a good start on the metastate fields/methods available from BusinessBase and other base classes.

Finally, I also put a top level type diagram online that is available to anyone who has purchased either the Using CSLA 4: CSLA .NET Overview ebook or the entire ebook series. It is available from the same download.lhotka.net web page.

Books | CSLA .NET | WP7
Friday, December 10, 2010 3:25:51 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

Apparently music subscription services are struggling to gain traction

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/more-itunes-alternatives-can-a-subscription-music-service-ever-succeed/2770?tag=nl.e539

I can understand that, because I was an anti-digital-music person for a long time. My thought was that I had no reason to pay for a music subscription when radio was free.

Of course radio isn’t free, and over time (as I’ve gotten older?) I find the DJ dialog and commercials on radio to be increasingly annoying. To the point that radio costs way too much – there’s less music than drivel and I just can’t take it.

The other alternative is to buy CDs, rip them and create your own collection. That way you “own” the music. And certainly compared to buying digital MP3s it is better to buy the CD. I’ve “purchased” digital music several times over the years, and several times I’ve had the originating company go out of business and so the DRM locked me out of my “purchase”. And I’ve had hard drive failures, and so lost my “purchase”.

Sure, a CD can get scratched, but if you buy a CD, rip it and then only use the digital copy, you always have the pristine master source, even in the case of hard drive failure.

However, a CD costs around $12, and zune.net costs $15/mo. So I can buy around 12-13 CDs each year, or I can spend the same money to have access to a few hundred thousand songs. Even over my entire lifetime, at 12 CDs per year I’ll never get a collection the size I have access to via zune.net.

So radio is out (because it just sucks), and buying CDs isn’t really cost-effective.

But there are streaming services like pandora and last.fm and others. They are free, or at least cheaper than zune.net, so why not use them?

I used to use pandora, but it started getting pretty flaky with its song selections. Lately I’ve been using last.fm because they came with my xbox gold subscription (and zune.net didn’t until recently). I like last.fm, they do a good job and they stream to my xbox and my Windows Phone 7.

However, streaming services don’t work when I’m on an airplane, in a hotel (you never get good bandwidth in a hotel), in northern Minnesota camping or fishing, etc. Basically they are for city people who don’t travel, not for people like me who travel and/or spend a lot of time in rural areas.

So how does zune.net differ from things like radio, CDs or streaming services?

For about $15/mo you get this:

  1. Access to several hundred thousand songs via streaming
  2. 10 free purchases (DRM free) each month (basically I get to “buy” for free almost an entire album every month)
  3. Smart DJ, which does what pandora and last.fm do: creating a themed “radio station” drawing music from my personal library plus the entire zune library (those hundreds of thousands of songs)
  4. The ability to sync Smart DJ playlists to my zune device or Windows Phone – so that music is available when I’m entirely offline

So think about this. For just over the price of a CD I get (more or less) a CD’s worth of music I actually own each month. I figure that’s $10 of the $15 covered each month right there.

But more importantly, for my other $5/mo I get unlimited streaming just like pandora or last.fm – and in a form that works when I’m entirely offline like on an airplane or sitting on a lakeshore in far northern Minnesota where there’s no cell coverage, much less Internet.

(it is this pure offline feature that even iTunes doesn’t have – and why zune.net is (for me) the ultimate solution)

In the end, yes, I understand the arguments against paying a subscription fee for music. But when compared to the alternatives, it has become clear to me that none of those arguments really hold water. The zune.net service is pretty much the perfect way to consume music.

Windows Phone | WP7 | Xbox | Zune
Friday, December 10, 2010 10:59:08 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [6]  | 
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