Finally, a mute button…

‘Blackberry is dead’ has been the cry of analysts from Wall Street for the past 5 years. Don’t get me wrong I am not denying that they are on the rain slick precipice of being history, but at least I won’t have to analysts listen to them anymore, as going private means their opinion is officially worthless.

http://crackberry.com/fairfax-financial-consortium-agrees-purchase-blackberry-47-billion

Well maybe their opinions aren’t totally worthless, as they seem to be self fulfilling to an extent; I have heard people say I wouldn’t buy that phone because I heard in the media that their stock price is down (it is a known fact that the higher your stock price, the more cores your mobile phones CPU has).

These are the same idiots crying that Apple is doomed…. on that subject, it looks like they were wrong 9 million times  this weekend alone: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/23/us-apple-iphone-idUSBRE98J0LD20130923

I am sure the mobile platform zealots who have hated Blackberry will continue to do so, all based on the ‘empirical evidence’ that ‘people don’t use it, so it can’t be good’. I have never understood the mentality, much the same way as someone who cheers for the Yankees and tells me they would never cheer for another team because the Yankees have more World Series wins.

I likely sound like a zealot myself, but the truth is that idiots pedalling their opinion as fact drives me to play devil’s advocate. I also feel I am entitled to voice my opinion because I have used iPhone and Android for multiple years each. I have not used WinMo, so I keep my mouth shut about it.


The Hardest Video Games

Well by most standards I am pretty average at Video games. A familiar plight for me: love hockey, but I am pretty average, love music, but I am pretty… shit. You get the idea.

Anyway, came across this list of hardest video games. I am not going to get into how comprehensive this list is. I am sure I will get a tonne comments saying that Game X is way harder than anything on this list. But while calling these games the hardest games may be controversial, calling these game very challenging games is pretty damn safe.

Of these 10 games, I have finished:

  • Battle Toads (though friend did most of work here)
  • Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts
  • Metro 2033
  • Demon Souls
  • Dark Souls

It really made me think that all of these games were amongst my favourite and most memorable games of all time…. Does the satisfaction of beating a difficult game make it bettter? Or where these just great games? I’ll take the easy answer here: both.


The Search For a Google Calendar Replacement.

Anyone have any Google Calendar alternatives. Like pretty much everything with Google, roll out and ignore.

The inability to accept meeting invites to anything other than the default calendar is driving me nuts. In fact you can’t even change the calendar later, like you can with non-invite events. You have to manually create a new event in the correct calendar, then c/p the info from the invite. Now that I am using Google Calendar for work, this is a real pain point.

I abandoned MobileMe/iCloud because of atrocious email, but I do miss how well the calendar worked, and the contacts sync worked excellent too. With gcal it is quite common to end up with duplicate events, or duplicate contacts, etc. I mean you know your software has issues when you have a ‘find duplicates’ button: Basically a ‘fix shit that should never have happened’ button.

I have looked at zoho, but seems a little too kitchen sinky. Plus the calendar is not their focus, so likely a good chance that they treat it as a red-headed step child, same as Google does. Tungle.me is no more, hoping RIM eventually does something cool with it. I played with 30boxes, but it doesn’t have a location field in calendar which is annoying. OneMedaMedia hub is on my try list. But I’d like to hear other if you have them.

EDIT: I ended up settling on outlook.com because it also has Exchange Active Sync support for free.


Get Spotify In Canada… (It’s Easy!)

 

Every time I have thought about signing up for Spotify, I have been put off when I start reading tutorials which involve hacking the entire internet.

Well I just did it in about 5 minutes, and it does not involve any long term hacks.

  1. Go here: http://www.newipnow.com/
  2. Enter http://www.spotify.com/us/signup/open/ in the connect to box.new_ip
  3. Click on one of the free account buttons in the US.
  4. You will be taken to Spotify, click on a signup link. If you don’t see a link to sign up, in the NewIpNow toolbar, change the url to be spotify.com, and it should take you to a page that you can sign up from.click_sign_up
  5. Enter your information, using a US zip code (any one).enter_info
  6. Download the client, run the setup, enter your information, and that is it.
  7. You will not need to use a proxy after that. It only checks your IP on sign up!

Enjoy!


Creating a Complete CRUD Application in 27 Minutes

A friend of mine recently decided to reinvent himself as a .Net developer. Any programmer can pick up C# .Net pretty quickly. He works in an enterprise environment, and so I suggested he look into MVC and Entity Framework (EF), as they are Microsoft answer to the Rails stack. I prefer working with Rails, but the enterprise space is dominated by the MS stack, so learning MVC and EF is worthwhile.

I decided to through together  video showing how easy it is to get something off the ground using MVC/EF.  I hope you can learn something from the videos, but I think the most important thing to take away from these videos is a list of what can be done, for very little development cost, using MVC and EF.

The videos are of fairly poor quality. I spent hours trying to get Cam Studio to record half as well as QuickTime does on my Mac, and this was the best I could come up with, but if you view in full screen you should be able to view the text fairly easily.

Pause the video if necessary to read captions. Forgive the the  meandering nature of the topics covered.  Also the videos are of fairly poor quality. I spent hours trying to get Cam Studio to record half as well as QuickTime does on my Mac, and this was the best I could come up with, but if you view in full screen you should be able to view the text fairly easily. Vimeo provides an option to download the full size original file too, so maybe take advantage of this for even better quality.

I was doing this totally live, with no rehearsal (edit: actually edited out about 3 minutes from a total 1.75 hours of footage). In fact you will see a bunch of mistakes I make as well; I didn’t edit these out, as they are likely errors that new .Net Web App developers will run into. I wish more programming videos would leave the errors in, as a developer can learn a lot from them.

What should you have for a background? You should have some C#, as I don’t cover anything on C#, other than touching on Lamda/Linq, and MS-MVC special syntax used. The more you know about databases, the more you will get out of the video, but the only required knowledge is that you know what a relational database is.

The best way to view these videos is by using vimeo’s hubnut player here. Unfortunately the hubnut iframe does not work with this host, so I can’t embed the vimeo hubnut player. However, I can just embed the videos one by one.

Start by creating the DB here:

Build your application in 27 minutes:

Examples of slightly more advanced things you will want to do in your web app (Part 1):

And Part 2:

Enjoy!

note: When I say MVC, I mean the branded web framework owned by Microsoft, not the design pattern made famous by the Gang of Four, though MS’s MVC is loosely based on MVC.

edit: If you find the text quality poor on the embedded videos, just download the full video from vimeo.


Tip: Developing Applications that Send Email

As a developer, it is pretty common to to have to send an email from your application.  This can be a real pain in the ass, as you have to configure for your SMTP server, fills your inbox with test messages.  There can also be a small delay from the time your application sends a message, to the time that it shows up in your inbox. Developer’s know that this small delay can be a huge hurtle in a development flow.

I found this little gem: smtp4dev, which runs in your systray. Just tell your application to use localhost as it’s SMTP server, then everytime it sends an application, smtp4dev pops up the new message so you can delete it.  It doesn’t matter what email address you send the mail to, they all show up here.  This nifty littel freebie has saved me a tonne of time.

If this project had done button I would gladly click it, as the app has saved me so much time.


Going to iPhone from Blackberry

This post is long overdue.  In fact I switched from an iPhone from Blackberry two years ago now. When I did it, I said I would write a blog post about my experience.  Well true to my word, here it is…. just 2 years to late.  So many people have already switched away from Blackberry, this post is really not that relevant anymore. But I figured I would post it anyway, as there are still things I miss about my Blackberry, and still reasons why I won’t go back until BB10. So Blackberry haters may find this interesting.

I don’t want to spend a ton of time on this post, so I am gonig to basically post the bullet points I made over the first months of my switch. These observation were made with iOS5, and iPhone 4.

What I missed about the Blackberry:

  • Transitions everywhere, looks pretty but slow!
  • Email feels like a chore on iPhone; navigating in an out of  of folders, see above point.
  • Miss the amazing keyboard of the 9000/8900/9700/9900
  • Miss blinking light: turning the screen on all the time is annoying.
  • Blackberry Audio profiles were really well done, how has iPhone never implemented this?
  • Blackberry phone app was very easy to use, and useful. Never hunting for contact. It worked friction free.
  • Dialing 1-800-sum-word on Blackberry was awesome, just spell the word out on phone app, and it dialed correct numbers.
  • Blackberry quick dial shortcuts. Press and hold V to dial Vicki, etc.
  • App short cuts. Press T to open tasks, etc. Not many people know about this, as OS6 had universal search on by default.
  • The next one then has to be universal search, was missed. No phone out there allows you to search for an app, contact, email, etc so quickly.
  • Type to find in any list, was missed. iPhone requires you to scroll to top of list to get at search, so annoying.
  • My Blackberry was built like a brick; iPhone built like a faberge egg
  • There is nothing like BBM. Any I have tried them all.
  • No magnetic cases, for auto shut off, changing ring profile, etc.
  • I was going to say battery life, but  I won’t.
  • Reception sucks on iPhone. Tons of dropped calls. But I don’t talk on phone much, so not a huge deal.
  • Phone speaker on iPhone not as good.
  • Information on home screen. I really miss having my home screen show upcoming events, tasks, alarms, etc. Why should I have to jailbreak my phone to get this.

What I loved about my iPhone:

  • Amazing web browser, likely outweighs all bad.
  • Screen Size – I could never go back to the tiny Blackberry screen.
  • Handles IMAP folders! I find this so ironic that Blackberry is the email king, yet if you are on BIS you can’t file messages in folders.
  • Touch Screen.
  • Typing one handed much easier. Two hand typing was better on Blackberry, but because of the actuation force required by physical keyboards, a touch screen is actually easier to type one handed.
  • Tons of rich apps, BB apps were limited by screen real-estate, and poor widgets.
  • Great stock music player.
  • Better podcast handling. I love me some podcasts, and the blackberry was always lacking in this.  Since I have left Blackberry, they now have a dedicated Podcasts app, but I have not used it.
  • Skipping songs using the headphones buttons. Nice.
  • iPhone network access is much faster on 3G and WiFi.  The blackberry is always patchetically slow with data access. I am not sure if it is because it has to route everything through BIS/BES or what.  Even on wifi, surfing is slow on Blackberries. Thank god this isn’t the case with BB10/Playbook.

I have since switched to an Android phone, about a month ago;  the HTC One X. I will have a post next week about this.