Saturday, December 03, 2011

GivenTaken - A Lend and Borrow app

How many times you have lost track of what you have lend  to  or borrowed from your friends, relatives and co-workers?

Here is an easy to use WP7 app, which helps you keep a log of all those things so that you can free up that creative mind of yours for other creative things.

GivenTaken.
Remember what you gave. Remember what you took,

You can download the same at: http://windowsphone.com/s?appid=642c15fc-b7a9-44a7-9982-26c668a1eb9b

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Sweet Mango

John Baird is coming back to our .net user group, with a presentation of the new  Windows Phone Mango features.

Not to be missed.

Details at http://www.central-penn.net.


UPDATE
THIS MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELLED. A deer hit John's car and the car is badly damaged. John is fine. We will try to get him in January 2012.

Monday, October 31, 2011

2000 and running...

My WP7 app Alphabets4Kids has crossed 2000 downloads. I am very excited and humbled. Thank you for all your support!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Hindu Life

I am a Hindu. But I did not know what it exactly meant till recently. More of the awareness came from the Satsangs (spiritual group discussions) we had for a year or so. The group discussions were more geared towards practical applications of Hindu philosophy in our daily life. The scriptures are so full of knowledge and so full of life, and we take them for granted. The biggest shortcoming of Hindu scriptures, what we all agree is that the language they are put in - Sanskrit. And today's mass have no clue of this language.

TheHinduLife is an app, which gives a small dose of Hinduism. It is no way near to perfection. There will be number of updates coming for sure. But I think this is a good start.

Please download the same at http://windowsphone.com/s?appid=49223139-4aeb-41fa-87be-8a6c336c6f04.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Car Wash Management

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with washing or repairing cars.
 
Well, I have been pondering over Managers and Management for long - as long as I can remember. Every software developer does, in my opinion.  I treat myself as a Manager's developer (akin to Director's actor :)). Having said that, I have flourished under stupid managers too (you have to believe me :)). Developers who perform well even under unhealthy managerial environment, are truly rock stars. But we seldom can be consistent.

Managers, in my opinion, should act as support systems (oh yes, I stole this from Joel Spolsky!). I believe this very strongly. I have lead many projects, and I always see that my team members get what they want from me. Maybe, that's because I am a developer myself and I know the pains and happiness of being one.

In my 15 years of experience in the IT industry, I have seen (and dealt with) many managers, which I think, can be put in these buckets:

1. Car Wash
2. Mechanics
3. Dealers

Car Wash 
Imagine a car wash company posing as a mechanic. Or a mechanic who knows only to wash a car. And he/she is an expert in washing cars. :) You get the point, I presume :). Ok, to be more clear, if you take an issue to a manager, and he listens to you carefully, and replies in fine tone using all the polished, sophisticated business language you can get, and you thank him and get out of his office. Once you go and sit on your chair (if you have one), and think about a while, and you know your issue has not been resolved.... well those kind of managers are Car Wash Managers! (You take your car for fixing breaks, instead they wash your car and polish, and you are so happy that you car shines more than that of your neighbor's. But once you drive a mile or so, you realize your brakes are not yet fixed!)

Unfortunately, there are more Car Wash managers than you would like to deal with.
Yes, unfortunately :)


Mechanics
They don't wash your car. They are (sometimes) rude. They run dirty garages. Your car might get dirtier than before. BUT, your brakes would get fixed, for sure.
Some managers (mostly - not all - developer-turned-managers) know their stuff. They are in their caves always, and are not social enough to boost their team's morale. They do their work, and they help their team when asked for.


Dealers
Those who love their cars take them to the dealer. Because they walk the talk. They know their stuff. And they also wash your car! Nice deal, eh? But they are expensive, one would argue. Yes, but it depends. At a longer term, you would realize you have made a good decision.

These managers, seen very sporadically in IT industry, are considerate. That does not mean they are dumb. They are, in fact, the most intelligent of the breed, who knows whats going on with a project, and is constantly on top of everything.  They have a work-life balance others can only dream of. They understand what the developers are talking about, and give them amicable solutions for their issues. They let the developers fail and try to move forward than pointing fingers at each other.

I am a fortunate developer, having worked with many Dealership type managers. And that's my weakness too. I easily get frustrated when dealing with Mechanics or Car Wash type of managers. Well, I just can't tolerate Car Wash managers, for sure. But, the reality is that this world is not made of Dealership kind of managers alone. It is filled with all types, and we have to mold ourselves to deal with every one.

What is your experience? Do you agree with my statements above? Put in your comments for a healthy discussion.

Windows Azure - A nice post

Stephen Walther explains about creating a WCF service in Windows Azure - a step-by-step guide. Have a look at it here. You will enjoy, for sure. I did.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hanselminutes

This is one of those days I feel so lucky. And fortunate.

It has been a privilege to create Hanselminutes podcasts app for Windows Phone 7. I was already half-way through with the app when I contacted Scott Hanselman (yes, the Scott Hanselman!) for his blessings and his permission to publish the app. He is a very busy person, and was quite surprised when I got his reply after 2-3 days. Yes, I did not expect him to reply to me so soon, as I knew he is a very busy person (yeah, I said that before!) and he is always traveling and speaking around the world.

Scott was gracious enough to give me a go. I send him screenshots and we went back and forth for a week. Then we finalized on what we wanted.

As a bonus, we have also included a section where you could go and read Scott's blog entries.

The app is now published and is available in the marketplace for download.


Scott's website: http://www.hanselman.com
Hanselminutes: http://www.hanselminutes.com

Thanks Scott, for giving me this opportunity!

Monday, June 27, 2011

MilesCalc update

MilesCalc needed some accuracy in locating the position. It has been updated and is available in the marketplace with the following modifications:

Distance Calculation
Replaced the simple DistanceTo() method on the Location object, with Harvesine formula, to calculate distance.

Battery Efficiency
The first version used to poll the position every second. That was both inefficient in locating the position and also using the battery unnecessarily. Now, I have changed to poll only every 20 meters.

High Accuracy
The GeoPositionWatcher has been set to High Accuracy. This might be an effect on the battery, but it would get the location more accurately.

You could download the update here.

Number of downloads (as of 06/22/2011): 111.

Monday, June 20, 2011

MilesCalc - An app which calculates miles

Many times, I remind myself to jot down the miles traveled on a particular day, so that I could get reimbursed. Then, as usual, I forget. Or I would be too lazy!

Then, the MilesCalc was born. (Needless to say, it is my 4th Windows Phone app).

MilesCalc - short for Miles Calculator. It does  exactly what it says - calculates the miles you traveled - at the click of two buttons - START and STOP. Yes, that simple.


Download the same here. And please place your marketplace reviews - good or bad.

Here are some screenshots of MilesCalc.




Friday, June 17, 2011

Numbers4Kids

On the lines of 4Kids series, we have published another app for kids to learn numbers - Numbers4Kids. Please try it out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Session on XNA

As of today, I have 3 WP7 apps in the marketplace. And 3 are coming... I have been developing the apps using Silverlight only, and keeping my fingers away from XNA. I haven't had much time pondering on XNA, so I have been procrastinating on it.

Next Tuesday, 21st that is, Chris Gomez is coming to Harrisburg PA, for presenting a session on XNA for WP7, for our user group. He has promised me to start with XNA basics, and then go into game development. I have talked to Chris on various occasions, and found him very passionate about XNA. This would be fun, for sure. If it sucks me in, I would consider developing some apps using XNA too :) Who knows... :)

So, if you are interested and would like to know what XNA is all about, you could visit our next user group meeting on 21st evening. You wouldn't be disappointed for sure! For details, please visit http://www.central-penn.net.






Thursday, May 19, 2011

Re-designing Alphabets4Kids app

We have 2 apps in the marketplace, and the downloads are progressing. Good news.

But we think we could do a much better job in designing the  layout of the apps. We took Alphabets4Kids app as a guinea pig.

To make good movies, you need to watch good (and bad) movies. To write a good book, you need to read a lot. To create (I intentionally did not use the word "develop") a beautiful app, you need to look at other apps. So, I took time to read and wander around to see other apps. And that gave me a new perspective of designing apps. Windows Phone 7 gives a wonderful ecosystem which we could leverage and put in our creative brains together to come up with top-notch apps.

I went ahead and did (and re-did) a re-design of Alphabets4Kids. It is available in the marketplace now.





Below are some screenshots:









We think we could do a much better job on this.  We would be bringing new features for this app in near future.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Windows Phone 7 Development

I have already dived into the ocean of Windows Phone 7 development. Not alone, but with one of my friends Rajeev Venkitaraman. He is also a .NET enthusiast and technologist. We already developed two apps, for kids, Shapes4Kids and Alphabets4Kids.

To track our progress, and also to share our experiences, we have created a blog - http://hubapps.blogspot.com/. Please visit this site and plant your feedback.

Shapes4Kids - Helping kids learn various shapes

Alphabets4Kids was not our first app. There was another app we developed (Shapes4Kids), but failed the certification. We had sound added in that app, for each shape. My 7 year old daughter, Parvathy, helped us in recording the sounds. We have promised her a Happy Meal from McDonalds!:)

Our app failed the certification for two reasons:

1. Our app would stop any existing background audio.

2. We did not have any control over our on media, for example the volume.


While I started working on developing a Settings page, Rajeev Venkitaraman had completed the Alphabets app. So we got that app uploaded, without any audio. It passed the certification.

We have completed the work on the Shapes app and have submitted the same.

Here's how we solved the two issues.

1. Controlling the background audio.
There is no inherent methods in Silverlight to check whether a background audio is being played. So, we take help from XNA framework. For that we need to refer the following assembly:

Microsoft.Xna.Framework

The following property would help us identify whether a background audio is being played:

Media.MediaPlayer.GameHasControl

If it returns false, then it means the background music is being played. Do not forget to call FrameworkDispatcher.Update() before accessing the Xna property.

2.Controlling our own audio
We created a separate Settings page for controlling our audio. The IsolatedStorage ApplicationSettings came very handy in this case. We created a separate AppSettings class and accessed this as a resource in both the MainPage.xaml (in which we rendered the Shapes) and Settings xaml page.



The testing is in progress.
(Cross fingers!) :)

UPDATE
The Shapes4Kids app has passed the certification and is available for download.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Alphabets4Kids - Our first app

Our very first app Alphabets4Kids is ready for download in the marketplace, for Windows Phone 7 users. This is a very basic app, targeted towards kids aged 3-5, who are learning alphabets. We would be adding audio, to make it more interesting in further releases.

Please feel free to drop a line regarding this app.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our stint with Windows Phone 7

I have been pondering around developing mobile apps for long. When I attended John Baird's session on Windows Phone 7 at the Central Penn .NET User Group, I knew this was the time. I pinged my geek friend Rajeev Venkitaraman and we talked about this a little bit. He also got excited, but we needed more brain washing :)

I had already been dwelling into Silverlight and XAML at my free time, and I was quite confident in doing the WP7 development. We attended the MVVM session by Miguel Castro at Microsoft's Malvern (PA) office and John  Baird's WP7 session (again) at Philly Code Camp. Their enthusiasm were contagious. We couldn't wait further.

After 2 days, we met and talked about various ideas. We came into creating apps for kids - kids who are beginning to learn. Shapes, alphabets, numbers and what not... We made 2 apps, one for Shapes and another for Alphabets. Both are being tested...


We are quite excited on this new adventure...

I will keep everyone posted on our trips, tricks, successes and failures...

Monday, March 21, 2011

What I have been upto

I haven't been blogging much lately... just posting activity updates of our .NET User Group. What I have been upto?  I have been:
  • Learning Silverlight
    • I have made several attempts to learn SL in the past, but for some obvious and not-so obvious reasons, I had to drop it. The obvious reason was for the fact that SL was not "enterprise" ready. But this time, I have had it all sorted out. With the SL4.0 being out, and Windows Phone 7 supporting SL4.0 development, it made quite sense (yes, I am not out of it yet :)) to get into the SL bandwagon (is there one?). I am reading mainly from the Wrox book and from the blogs around.
  • Learning C#
    • Ha.... I have been a VB(.NET) guy for long. I still am. But the world does not seem friendly enough to VB.NET developers. Almost all the articles that I read are of C#. I read C# pretty fluently, but my coding skills are still immature when it comes to this language. There is one truth that we VB.NET developers do not like to admit - C# is (going to be) the de-facto language of .NET. In my travel around the blogosphere and the web, I see more and more applications being written in C#. I have decided to break the barrier and learn it and make it my primary language of choice.
  • Learning MVVM
    • If you know Silverlight, it is understood that you know MVVM (Model View ViewModel) also. They go along so well. This became more and more clear when I attended the Get DevReady with MVVM session by Miguel Castro at Malvern PA. I am reading Josh Smith's article as my primary resource.
So, all the three at the same time. Hmmm... its fun! :)

On the side, I am developing an app in SL4.0, to apply what I have learned. Every week I try to do something with what I learn. This is a slow process for now, but I am getting there...  The world of XAML is pretty wonderful... As I said before, it makes easy things hard and hard things easier.

Expect more Silverlight related posts.... yeah... coming soon!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Windows Phone presentation

It was an amazing evening this tuesday. John started of with this statement: Silverlight (and WPF for that matter) makes easy things harder and hard things easier.
It couldn't have been explained better.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Windows Phone 7 Development

.NET developers are very much excited with the release of Windows Phone 7. The users like it's interface as much as they hate (that's a strong word, I know. Read it as "dislike") the 6.x version.


John Baird is coming to Harrisburg (once again), for his much awaited presentation on Windows Phone 7 development.

I have known John for quite a long time. I have attended his presentations in Central Penn .NET User Group meetings and code camps. He is one speaker with deep technical accumen and know the audience's nerve.

If you are in Harrisburg on January 18th, have a nice evening with John Baird and his Windows Phone 7 development slides. You will thank me for sure!

You can find more details on the event in http://www.central-penn.net/.

UPDATE:
The meeting has been postponed to the month of February 15th, due to the inclement weather forecast on 18th Jan.