Developing for Windows Mobile – Marketplace Sign-up

Windows Marketplace I’ve decided it would be fun and educational to launch a product through the soon to be released Windows Phone Marketplace. Obviously all the major phone/mobile OS vendors have already beaten Microsoft to market – so you would expect them to have taken some of the learnings from these ventures onboard. In other words – I expect them to do a good job of this – both from a customer and developer perspective.

The following is a summary of my experiences in getting an application into the Marketplace thus far…

Sign-up Process

Microsoft have been very crafty with their Marketplace registration process. Its obviously designed to weed out those individuals who are anything less that desperate to get their product into the app store. If you can answer “no” to two or more of the questions below then I suggest thinking twice before you consider signing-up.

  • Do you enjoy trawling IRS websites to learn about the various US tax forms?
  • Do you enjoy reading about country tax laws and specific treaty clauses?
  • Do you want to know the difference between SSNs and ITINs?
  • Do you have easy access to a non-expired passport else birth certificate plus other government photo id?
  • Do you enjoy filling out paperwork and posting (yes snail-mail) your documents overseas?
  • Do you mind taking a PDF signed by a Microsoft rep, on Microsoft letterhead, modifying it yourself and then sending it off to the IRS as an official sanction for an ITIN? [What is the point of this step?]
  • Are you really expecting to make a killer mobile app that will make this all worthwhile?

[Note: If you are a US taxpayer already then most of this will be irrelevant and the process will be a breeze.]

Of course I answered “no” to all of these but as I stated before I’m writing the whole thing off as an “educational experience”. Nothing worthwhile is meant to be easy… right?

[Note: There is actually a pretty good walkthrough/slideshow of the registration process here.]

Artwork

If you got through the sign-up process don’t think you’ve beaten them. You now have to create your application icon/logo in a wide variety of resolutions (dpi) and sizes. Then you have to tweak the install process to pick out the right imagery for the particular device its being installed on. When I say tweak – I mean write some C code and inject that into the installer. OK – maybe that’s a little unfair – but go check out some of the following blog posts and their related comments.

As one tongue-in-cheek commenter put it:

“Was there some sort of requirement to do this in the most developer-hostile way possible, or was that just a happy accident?”

Getting Verified

During the sign-up process an email verification is sent out to you by the third-party identity verification company (GeoTrust) that are issuing the code-signing certificates. Make sure you respond to this email immediately because it takes a week or two after that for their poor over-worked web server to send out the next email which actually asks you to provide some credentials.

The good news is that you can supply these credentials back to them via email (unlike the IRS).

The bad news is that their systems are a little flaky and four days later they send your exactly the same email by mistake. Luckily their online chat staff seem to be a little more competent than their computer systems and will tell you to ignore the second email whilst they manually forward your details on to the next verification step.

I’m still waiting on a final outcome…

Submitting Your Application

This is the part of the process that I expected to be more challenging but unfortunately I haven’t gotten this far yet. Submitting your application to the Marketplace and have it pass all the internal testing. There are a number of tools that Microsoft have published which they use internally during the testing process. One such is Hopper – which jumps between your application and others – presumably to detect your applications ability to quickly switch (i.e. for incoming call), to use minimal resources particularly whilst switched out and to be stable over a long (2 hour) period.

One major gotcha with some of the test tools and those supplied with the Windows Mobile SDK is that they only work on 32 bit machines. This is annoying to say the least. They only 32 bit machine I have left is the new HP Netbook which my wife had grown rather fond of.

Well – assuming I every get past the verification process I may post some further thoughts on submission and publication.

Tech-Ed Australia 2009 – Day Two

First – here’s a few blog posts which cover some of the sessions I went to yesterday – but in much more detail. I’d recommend both blogs if you’re not already subscribed.

Windows Mobile Marketplace – http://www.techau.tv/blog/?p=2106

Starting a Small Software Enterprise – http://richardsbraindump.blogspot.com/2009/09/how-to-build-small-software-enterprise.html

Everyone that attended yesterday’s session on the Windows Mobile Marketplace was also sent an e-mail this afternoon to let us know the information we were given regarding the regional pricing policy was incorrect. The price is actually an additional $10 per region, not $99 which I think it quite acceptable. See Jame’s blog post for details.

DEV310 Make Some Magic! Shake, Flip and Flick Your Application for Windows Mobile 6.5!

This talk began with a brief introduction of marketplace and the Race to Market Challenge. This was then followed by a good discussion around new and emerging phone capabilities which included an interesting video of some folk who have developed a multi-touch resistive screen technology. This means you get multi-touch, pressure sensitivity and fine grain accuracy.

Unfortunately for me a large part of the talk was based around how you can use the great open source sensor API to access hardware specific phone features such as accelerometers and light sensors.Would have been interesting for those that hadn’t seen it before – but otherwise just a run through of the provided demos apps.

There was also a quick demonstration of how easy it is to write your own gesture recognition engine for pre 6.5 phones. Simple but very effective.

DEV350 What is new in VS2010 & .NET FX 4.0… and what should you be using in your next project?

The session speaker was Adam Cogan. I tried to listen to him… I really did. But he’s just so annoying!

He spends all his time going off on irrelevant tangents or trying to amuse the audience. Then creeps through the content at a snails pace [hmm… can snails creep?]. His endless audience questions quickly become tiresome too. What makes it even more annoying is that he’s always getting/picking great topics for Tech-Ed sessions. Its just that the delivery is so poor. But then its probably just me. I I always give him a 1 on the review and if everybody else did the same he wouldn’t get the gigs right? Guess I’ll just notch it down to a personality clash – just hoping next year that he decides to do a talk on something less interesting.

I didn’t manage to sit through this talk to the end. A good coffee was much more enjoyable.

DEV320 Visual Studio 2008 IDE Tips

I thought this session would be entertaining though I consider myself fairly familiar with Visual Studio’s IDE (I should be after 7 years) and wasn’t expecting too many surprises. Having said that I came away with at least 5 tips that I certainly intend to apply to my everyday workflow. We didn’t even have to take notes because Sara had posted them just prior to her talk. My favourites were 5, 15 (esp. when used to execute from find combo) and 22. Another great session by Sara.

SQL209 Project Gemini: Self-Service Business Intelligence

This was all new for me. Essentially it seems to be providing business analysis functionality using Excel as the design tool – very much end-user oriented. Support for Excel Services (via SharePoint), using Analysis Services transparently with scheduled updating of data sources. The demo was very well delivered I was impressed in how the convergence of Excel, SharePoint, Silverlight, Reporting Services and Analysis Services worked seamlessly to produce the output.

To top it off the presenter showed how the project Gemini Excel add-in could sort and filter 101 million rows in real time (sub-second) even when running on a HP Mini netbook. All via an in-memory data engine and clever use of compression.

Its being delivered as part of SQL 2008 R2 together with Office 2010.

Tech-Ed Australia 2009

IMAG0042 I’m at Tech-Ed again this year (that’s three in a row!). Unfortunately this year I had to pay for the privilege since neither the company I’m currently working for nor Microsoft came to the party. Being an independent contractor I hardly expected my client to foot the bill – but I did try and get a ticket off of Microsoft – after all they footed the bill last year.

Day One of the main event has just finished and I was generally very impressed with the sessions I attended. I don’t really expect to learn a great deal at Tech-Ed. I figure its geared mainly towards corporate developers/IT pros who don’t necessarily have the passion/inclination to keep right up with emerging technologies and processes outside of company time. So if I don’t come to Tech-Ed to learn about the future of WPF, MVVM trends, ORMS and MEF then what am I doing here?

Well – to answer that he’s a quick recount of the sessions I attended today.

Keynote

Pretty much on target this year. Some opening spiel about how now is a good time to be innovating which was further enforced by a HP representative. Then into some demos – Office 2010, a glimpse at VS 2010 CodePlex and Blend 3 and some Windows 7.

SOA303 A Lap around Microsoft Code Name "Oslo"

This Oslo thing has got to go somewhere… eventually… right? The presenter certainly did the best job I’ve heard yet of describing Oslo with demos of M, Quadrant and Intellipad. The talk was done well, the demos flawless but i still came away wondering whether this is really going to mature into a product that will be accepted in the real world.

DEV230 A Tour of CodePlex

I was one of the many that joined the petition to get Sara Ford to come down to Oz. I’m a relatively new subscriber to Sara’s blog – having caught the end of her VS 2008 tips and then her musings and tips for her new role as Codeplex PM.

She seemed a little nervous in her part of the Keynote (looking up at 2500+ strangers) but in this session she was on fire. Its always a little awkward watching how the US speakers react to the subdued Australian audiences – but Sara didn’t miss a beat – she just steam-rolled ahead with a level of enthusiasm that was truly contagious.

SaraFord.FanClub.Membership++;

In fact – so inspired I’m going to post my latest project (Windows Mobile stuff) on Codeplex.

ARC203 How to build a small software enterprise from zero

I picked this session at the very last minute and as it turns out that was a choice very well made.

The speaker was a Perth based book author ( {yawn} – so who isn’t) by the name of Joseph Albahari. But then I discover he also happens to be the author of Linqpad (automatically elevating him to Legend status)! Just last week I was considering upgrading his most excellent utility to the premium version that includes intellisense auto-completion.

This talk was full of practical advice on how to make your own business out of developing software, with plenty of good examples from Joseph’s own journey with Linqpad. The slides, delivery and content in this talk were all first class.

WEB303 Free up the UX Bottleneck

This session was an overview of Sketchflow (within Expression Blend 3) by Shane Morris. Of all the sessions I attended today this one was the least rewarding. That was through no fault of Shane’s who covered the topic well – simply that I was already to familiar with the content. Particularly considering I’d seen Matt Morphet’s similar (dare I say superior) presentation at Remix and since then had a chance to play quite a bit with Sketchflow myself. Bad choice on my behalf – but then there wasn’t any other compelling content in this timeslot.

DEV260 Distributing and Monetizing Windows Mobile Applications through the Windows Marketplace for Mobile

I’ve been messing around building a few simple apps for my new HTC Touch Diamond 2 device and have considered launching an app or two on Microsoft’s new Windows Mobile Marketplace. I’d even gone so far as to entering a couple of very simple entries into the Codemason’s competition.

This talk became a very frank discussion about the good and bad points of the new Marketplace. It was definitely worth going to and the speaker was very open about the shortfalls in the scheme. For instance, although the marketplace will allow apps to be delivered to any of 29 countries you have to target each country individually – effectively taking a US$99 hit for registering each application instance in each country. Seems to make sense to initially target any application for the US only – I can’t see Australia or New Zealand having the volume of Windows Mobile users to support anything but a very locale specific application.

I got the general impression that most people leaving this talk would be less inclined to launch applications via Windows Mobile Marketplace. Seems a shame – like Microsoft almost got it right but then the marketing team came along at the last moment and crippled their solution.

Some random negatives:

  • Seriously – invest in a schedule builder that works. Please! How hard can this really be? Every year they insist on having some terrible web interface that has an awful user experience. It takes forever to get things into your schedule. This year is the worst yet. Its truly appalling – it doesn’t seem to work at all. Doesn’t matter how many times you click add/remove the schedule just won’t update. Most annoying!
  • With so many delegates with mobile devices Telstra’s NextG network seems a little saturated. It’s been a bit hit and miss and early in the evening I’ve been getting some really poor throughput.

And the flip side:

  • All delegates at Tech-Ed Australia 2009 receive a HP Mini 2140.
  • Mine was scheduled to be given to my mother-in-law as a lame-ass cheapo computer that will let her surf the net. The more time I spend with it though the more I’m starting to like it. The build finish is really very nice, performance seems not as bad as I expected and it seems to run Windows 7 Ultimate very nicely. The only thing about the device that is anything other than sweet is that it seems very loud. In a quiet hotel room my Fujitsu tablet PC can’t be heard at all over the HP Mini’s constant whirring even though its not in use.
  • Wireless connectivity at the event has been very good so far. After a few initial attempts at getting a connection the HP Mini worked flawlessly with the wireless. Resuming from sleep it connects back to the network in a matter of seconds. Good job!
  • Weather is awesome.
  • Got a good room at Jupiter’s Casino which is connected to the venue by a walkway.

Phew – that post was a little longer than I had originally intended. Anyone who has read this far is probably a work colleague – and yes I’m about to order room service then connect via VPN and start working on those bugs.

Developing for Windows Mobile – Composing User Controls

Tonight I finished refactoring the mobile UI framework I’ve been putting together so that it can correctly handle composite elements. Previously I’d been able to handle a collection of polygons (Rectangles, Stars etc.). I’ve now introduced the concept of DrawingContainers that themselves have a collection of elements, any of which may be another DrawingContainer.

The idea is that I can now construct UI controls that themselves are composed of simple graphic primitives. Just like WPF right? Each graphic element can have its own animations and hit test capabilities and controls can be composed within each other to form richer user controls. All this is rendered to the hosting Windows.Forms.Control in a single double-buffered render.

The class diagram below gives an indication of where I’m currently at. Everything in the diagram has been implemented.

 

Spencen.Mobile.UI

As one example of compositing controls I used a multi-part windmill.

Windows Mobile Spinning Wheel Thing_Thumb

Defined in code as:

var center = new Point( hostCanvas.Width / 2, hostCanvas.Height / 2 );
var yellowBrush = new SolidBrush( Color.Yellow );
var panel = new Panel( hostCanvas ) { Size = hostCanvas.Size, Center = center };
var bar1 = new Panel( hostCanvas ) { Size = new Size( 200, 20 ), Center = new Point( center.X, center.Y - 190 ) };
var bar2 = new Panel( hostCanvas ) { Size = new Size( 200, 20 ), Center = new Point( center.X, center.Y + 190 ) };
panel.Children.Add( new Rectangle() { Size = new Size( 50, 400 ), Center = center } );
bar1.Children.Add( new Rectangle() { Size = bar1.Size, Position = new Point( 0, 0 ) } );
bar2.Children.Add( new Rectangle() { Size = bar1.Size, Position = new Point( 0, 0 ) } );
bar1.Children.Add( new Star() { Size = new Size( 75, 75 ), 
Center = new Point( bar1.Size.Width / 2 - 90, bar1.Size.Height / 2 ),
Background = yellowBrush } ); bar1.Children.Add( new Star() { Size = new Size( 75, 75 ),
Center = new Point( bar1.Size.Width / 2 + 90, bar1.Size.Height / 2 ),
Background = yellowBrush } ); bar2.Children.Add( new Star() { Size = new Size( 75, 75 ),
Center = new Point( bar2.Size.Width / 2 - 90, bar2.Size.Height / 2 ),
Background = yellowBrush } ); bar2.Children.Add( new Star() { Size = new Size( 75, 75 ),
Center = new Point( bar2.Size.Width / 2 + 90, bar2.Size.Height / 2 ),
Background = yellowBrush } ); panel.Children.Add( bar1 ); panel.Children.Add( bar2 ); panel.Transforms.Add( _rotateTransform ); _rotateTransform.RenderCenter = new Point( hostCanvas.Width / 2, hostCanvas.Height / 2 ); panel.Host.AnimationManager.AddAnimation(
new FloatAnimation( _rotateTransform, "Angle", new TimeSpan( 0, 0, 50 ) ) { FinalValue = 3600 } ); var barRotation = new RotateTransform(); bar1.Transforms.Add( barRotation ); bar2.Transforms.Add( barRotation ); panel.Host.AnimationManager.AddAnimation(
new FloatAnimation( barRotation, "Angle", new TimeSpan( 0, 0, 50 ) ) { FinalValue = -7200 } ); var starRotation = new RotateTransform(); bar1.Children[ 1 ].Transforms.Add( starRotation ); bar1.Children[ 2 ].Transforms.Add( starRotation ); bar2.Children[ 1 ].Transforms.Add( starRotation ); bar2.Children[ 2 ].Transforms.Add( starRotation ); panel.Host.AnimationManager.AddAnimation(
new FloatAnimation( starRotation, "Angle", new TimeSpan( 0, 0, 50 ) ) { FinalValue = 18000 } ); hostCanvas.View.Children.Add( panel );

Other features so that I’ve got so far:

  • Support for Behaviours. So far the only implementation is a DragBehavior that allows dragging any attached element along one or both axis. Even supports a “flick” by determining the angle and velocity on mouse up and applying an animation with a cubic easing function to simulate velocity decay.
  • Scrolling between views/pages using an easing function (and BitBlt).
  • Simple image support.

Other ideas:

  • Button and ItemsList controls.
  • Stack and custom (e.g. radial) layout panels.
  • Integration with platform APIs to allow drawing of rounded rectangles, gradient fills and to support alphas.
  • A transform for flipping vertically or horizontally.
  • Behaviour to support an ICommand style interface to allowing hooking UI interactions with a view model.

Developing for Windows Mobile – Animation Basics

This post is a follow on from my most recent efforts creating some screens for a Windows Mobile application. I had decided to write a simple graphics library to help me do some nice transition effects. So over the last two nights I ported (actually rewrote) my original WinForms Transition demo to Windows Compact Framework.

So far I have support only for polygons, but that includes hit testing, transforms (rotate, translate, scale), animation (floats, points, colours, brushes) and easing functions (currently sine in/out and elastic out).

Hopefully I’ll post more about this (with source code) soon – but here is a quick demo video that I captured using Expression 3’s new screen capture utility (very neat!).

Windows Mobile Animations_Thumb

So far I’ve been really happy with the performance. Will be interesting to see how much it degrades once I start adding gradients, transparency and more complex shapes. [Note that the video doesn’t really reflect the performance too well.]

Developing for Windows Mobile – Getting Started

Now I have my new Windows Mobile 6.1 device I’ve decided to delve once more into the mysterious realm of developing for mobile devices. My previous forays have both been very lightweight. The most recent was simply displaying bus timetable information within a ListView control. Despite its simplicity its actually something I find very useful on my daily commute – rather than digging around in my bag for the paper version and then tuning in to the times and stops that I’m interested in.

Here’s a screenshot of my original Bus Timetable applet (its just too trivial to be awarded the title “application”):

BusTimetable - PocketPC 2003 SE

Now here’s a screenshot of the same application running on my new HTC device:

2009 07 06_21 15 12_0015_111g

Hmm.. some things scaled and some didn’t But overall when compared to the other default applications (particularly those written by HTC) it looks pretty lame.

So, I decided to get to work and create a user interface that:

  1. Scales well across the more common Windows Mobile devices resolutions (at least 240×320, 480×640 and 480×800).
  2. Fits with the “look and feel” of the pre-installed HTC applications.
  3. Works with touch only – this type of application needs to work using just my thumb since common scenarios for its use are when I’m walking through a crowd and carrying a bag.

With the help of the UIFramework from MSDN I managed to get some screens that I was pretty happy with. The icons and selection had gradient fills and the icons were superimposed on their corresponding “frames” with a transparent background.

2009 07 06_21 27 31_0016_111g  2009 07 06_21 28 35_0018_111g 

However, I soon found that things weren’t quite a rosy as I was hoping. To start with the UIFramework library sample seems to be a “work in progress”. That is to say it has a lot of bugs or parts that simply don’t work – its obviously intended as a starting reference for someone intending to owner draw their own controls/graphic elements.

Also, I originally created each ButtonBar as a user control. As with WinForms this meant that when it came to scrolling the buttons it looked terrible. Really slow – and each button is its own Window hence there is no capability of double-buffering. Man – I have been so spoiled by WPF – I had long forgotten all this pain! This trick then seemed to be to ditch using controls and just render the entire UI on a single user control. That way the main user control can double buffer all the rendering and there is only one render pass. The downside of course is that you then have to take care of everything – drawing all your own controls, hit testing, anchoring, dpi scaling etc.

Well – I’m not sure where I’m going with all this. But I did consider porting my WinForms Transitions code to the Windows CF. Even this was a no-go though – because although it contains plenty of base classes and helper methods for transforming and hit testing objects it relies heavily on using GraphicsContainer to do the actual transforms. These aren’t supported by the Compact Framework. So, I started from scratch, building a simple graphics library that will let me scale, rotate and translate graphic primitives. So far I have a spinning/zoomable rectangle – guess you gotta start somewhere.

MobileTransitions

Comment Spam Philosophy

Recently I’ve been getting quite a bit of comment spam on this blog. Most of it is inane gibberish, a witless praise or a text fragment ripped from the post itself. However, some of it is actually quite entertaining…



Although Google does not care much about links inside comments, Google cares about links INSIDE the posts. Get people to notice you, and they will eventually write about you and your site. Links inside posts are the best quality backlinks you can get. To sum it all up, always write great comments if you are going to write them, and you will be rewarded sooner or later.


Hmm – spam that tells me comment links are not really worth anything.



I admit, I have not been on this webpage in a long time… however it was another joy to see It is such an important topic and ignored by so many, even professionals. I thank you to help making people more aware of possible issues.
Great stuff as usual….


Well what can I say – its good to have you back.



The scoop neck and cap sleeves are cute, the gathers at the waist creates a uniformly flattering silhouette, and the pattern of the dye compliments beautifully the design of the dress!..


Why – thank you so much, I designed it myself :-p



Find effective graphics and photos: It’s always better to use too few than too many graphics. One great graphic is so much better than four weak ones. Sometimes they are not even necessary. When you do use graphics and photos, make sure they help illustrate your point, rather than just inserting them to take up space.


Err… OK – use a few good graphics… when necessary… but not more than four… and make them relevant not as padding. Even graphic designers are spamming!?



nice post! It helps me a lot to optimize my site… now my newly published site are get index by search engine especially Google…


Your new site “are get index” by Google – fancy Mr Spammer caring about that?



I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to start my own wordpress blog now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a fine example of it


Oh wonderful, my half-assed blog posts are inspiring the spammers to start their own blogs. I’m soooo proud

NHibernate – a Quality ORM?

[This is a flame. If you are an NHibernate fan, please stop reading now, you’ll only upset yourself otherwise.]

Like many others I subscribe to the codebetter.com RSS feed. One of the members feels that its their personal responsibility to enlighten subscribers with endless NDepend analysis results for various frameworks. I almost always skip those posts.

However, this latest post regarding the NHibernate 2.1 release I found most amusing.

I’ve been subjected to NHibernate. I don’t enjoy the experience. Some of the pain that I’ve felt begins to make sense. 58,000 lines of spaghetti code to do some pretty simple ORM mapping – woot! {snigger}