Resources to help get started developing Windows Phone apps

Yesterday, I tweeted to see if anyone had any resources to help a non-programmer create a Windows Phone app (I haven’t written any code in anger since I graduated 18 years ago, although I did used to write Basic, 68000 assembler, Modula-2, Turbo Pascal, COBOL, C, and C++):

Are there any good, idiot-proof, guides for people like me who haven't written code for 20 years to learn how to create a Windows Phone app?
@markwilsonit
Mark Wilson

I got quite a few responses asking me to share the findings so here’s what’s been suggested so far:

Now to find some time to make my application idea a reality…

Giffgaff – why did no-one tell me about this before?

Get a free giffgaff SIMOver the Christmas holidays, I completed my new year rationalisation of mobile contracts by switching my mobile phone from O2 (£16.50 for 200 minutes and a 500MB data bolt on, monthly rolling contract) to Giffgaff (£10 for 250 minutes and “unlimited” data). Having done so, I really don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner (apart from the fact I didn’t know about it!) – especially as Giffgaff not only runs on O2’s network but is actually owned by Telefonica/O2! Indeed, O2’s own careers website describes Giffgaff like this:

“Giff-what? Yes, we know it’s a funny name. Giffgaff is a brand new mobile network that doesn’t play by mainstream rules.

Instead, the company’s customers help run the company in return for cash rewards. Hence the term ‘giffgaff’, which means ‘mutual giving’, as any ancient Scot will tell you.

Customers can earn rewards for helping other customers with queries, designing marketing materials or by recruiting new members.

The business runs a tight ship – it has no call centres, high street shops and doesn’t splash out on expensive, glossy ad campaigns.

The result of this is that giffgaff keeps its costs low and and is able to pass the savings on to all its customers.

Although giffgaff is owned by O2 it is run as a separate company by a small group of passionate, full-time employees based in Beaconsfield just 8 miles north of Slough.”

This sounded good – and with a referral code that earned both me and the referrer a £5 credit I signed up. If you’re interested in signing up then we can both earn a fiver too!

So, what’s the catch? Surely there has to be one? The only difference that I can see is the support framework if things don’t work as they should. There is community support and you can “ask an agent” from the Giffgaff website but there is no call centre (which, depending on your view of call centres, may be A Good Thing).

Once I received my SIM, I activated it, including adding a £10 Goodybag to my account and then started to plan for transferring my number. I’ve had the same mobile number for a long time (10 years or more) and I didn’t want to lose it but there was clear guidance on the Giffgaff website setting out  the steps I needed to take to transfer my number and setting my expectations for the day of transfer (although I did panic a bit when the number still  hadn’t ported at the end of business hours – it finally became live in the early evening). I also needed to cut down the Giffgaff SIM to fit my phone (most phones use the standard SIM but my Nokia Lumia 800 uses a micro SIM) – there’s a template for this but I bought a SIM cutter for a few pounds on the Internet.

With my voice services transferred I needed to set up the APN for mobile data access on my smartphone, set up mobile messaging, and set up voicemail. All of this was covered in a handy Giffgaffer’s guide to Windows Phone 7(.5) – I’ve sure there are similar guides for iOS, Android, etc. too.

All in all, I’m really pleased with my switch to Giffgaff. If you’re not happy messing around with SIMs and entering a few settings in your phone, it may not be for you, but for anyone who is out of contract with their current mobile provider, is happy supporting their own technology, and who can get an O2 signal (the O2 status checker provides coverage details for a given postcode) then Giffgaff might be worth a try.

Hardware lineup for 2012

Last year I wrote a post about my “hardware lineup” – i.e. the tech I use almost every day so I thought I should really do the same for 2012.  Much of it’s still the same but there are some changes – it will be interesting to take a look in retrospect next year and see how my plans for 2012 have worked out. So, here’s the tech that I expect my life will revolve around this year.

Car: Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI Sport

My company car is due for replacement in the spring and I’ve ordered a Volkswagen Tiguan to drive for the next 3 years. I really like the Audi A4 Avant that I drive at the moment but it’s recently had a lot of money spent on it (new clutch and major service costing over £2,500 – thankfully not paid by me) and I’m not sure that a three-year-old car with 60,000 miles on the clock is  worth the money the lease company wants for me to take it on…

Due to price increases, another A4 with the same spec will cost me quite a lot more each month and, whilst the Tiguan is a little smaller, it’s also more practical (I looked at the Q3 too – but it’s “fugly”, overpriced and there is limited engine choice at the moment). With my growing family the addition of a towbar should allow me to take 4 bikes around on a carrier without scratching the car too.

Verdict who knows – it’s not been delivered yet!

Phones: Nokia Lumia 800 and Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 3GSNokia Lumia 800I recently joined the 1.5% and jumped into the Windows Phone market. I like it – and want the platform to succeed – but really feel Microsoft has a long way to go. Thankfully I still have an iPhone 3GS provided by my employer (and my iPad) to fall back on when apps are not available or when the Lumia is just too infuriating…

It was a risk buying the Nokia Lumia but the hardware is lovely, the software will improve, and it was a major investment so, realistically, it’s likely to remain with me for the next 2 years! Meanwhile, I’m still hoping to get myself an iPhone 4 or 4S to replace the 3GS but the chances are best described as slim.

(Lumia) Verdict 7/10. Hold.
(iPhone) Verdict 3/10. Not mine to sell!

Tablet: Apple iPad 3G 64GB

Apple iPadNo change here – the iPad is my media tablet of choice and no-one else even comes close. I may be tempted by an Amazon Fire or the new (rumoured) baby iPad but at the time of writing this device is still great for occasional surfing, a bit of TV catchup, and social media on the move.  It’s also great for the kids to play games and catch up on vital episodes of childrens’ television programmes that they missed (using BBC iPlayer)!

Verdict 8/10. Hold.

Everyday PC: Fujitsu Lifebook S7220 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 2.2GHz, 4GB RAM, 250GB hard disk)

Fujitsu Lifebook S7220I’m still hoping for a BYOC scheme at work, but this PC is my main computing device. I’d love a ThinkPad, but the Lifebook is a perfectly capable, solid, well-built notebook PC, although I frequently find myself running out of memory with the number of tabs I have open in a typical browsing session!

When it comes up for replacement, I’ll see if I can blag something smaller (really need to be a grade more senior for that) and reduce the weight of my work-bag…

Verdict 6/10. Holding out for a BYOC scheme at work.

Netbook: Lenovo S10e (Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB hard disk)

Lenovo IdeaPad S10Netbook, schmetbook. I hardly used this in 2011. I did install Ubuntu 11.04 on it and have a couple of blog posts to write before I use it to play with Windows 8. I bought the S10e for Windows 7 testing 3 years ago so it owes me nothing but the netbook form factor has been usurped by tablets and low-cost notebooks. My kids have one too but even they are frustrated by the small screen and tend to use my wife’s notebook PC instead

Verdict 2/10. Not worth selling, so keep for tech projects.

Digital Cameras: Nikon D700 and Coolpix P7100

Nikon D700Nikon P7100I still love my DSLR and the D700 will be with me for a while yet. Indeed, it’s more likely that I would buy some new lenses and a flashgun before I replace my camera body.

The P7100 joined me this year as a device to carry everywhere and it’s been pretty good, offering entry-level DSLR levels of control in a small package, although it’s not as responsive as I’d like.

(D700) Verdict 9/10. Hold.
(P7100) Verdict 7/10. Hold.

Photography PC: Apple MacBook MB062LL/B (Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 2.2GHz, 4GB RAM, 750GB hard disk)

Apple Macbook White (late 2007)This MacBook needs to last a while longer before I can justify its replacement but I did upgrade the hard disk in 2011 and it may get another upgrade this year. 4GB of RAM is starting to feel a bit light for big Photoshop jobs but new Macs are expensive. I’d better get saving for something new in 2013…

Verdict 5/10. Hold.

Media: Apple Mac Mini MA206LL/A (Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB hard disk)

(+ iPad, Lumia 800, iPhone 3GS, various iPods, Altec Lansing iM7 iPod speakers)

Apple Mac MiniNo change here since last year – although both disks in one of my NASs failed and I need to re-rip my CDs for my music library (iTunes had already done a good job of mangling it). I still haven’t bought the music keyboard (maybe this year) but it’s lasting well as my multimedia PC for the office with Spotify, iPlayer, etc.

It may not be the most powerful of my PCs, but it’s more than up to this kind of work and it takes up almost no space at all.

Verdict 6/10. Hold.

Gaming: Microsoft Xbox 360 S 250GB with Kinect Sensor

Microsoft Xbox 360sI don’t play this as much as I should to make full use of it (although I am enjoying my latest purchase: Lego Pirates of the Caribbean). Hopefully the next few months will finally see iPlayer land on the Xbox at which point it will become a really useful media centre for the living room (it works with my aging SD TV).

Verdict 9/10. Hold.

Servers and Storage: Atom-based PC, 2x Netgear ReadyNAS Duo

My Dell PowerEdge 840 has been retired to save energy (although it could still be wheeled out for any virtual machine workloads to test infrastructure scenarios) and, as I already mentioned, one of my ReadyNASs has suffered a multiple disk failure (waiting for me to sort out some warranty replacement disks) but, once recovered, these machines will remain as the mainstay of my computing infrastructure. Cloud storage for my photos is still too expensive so I’m likely to add another NAS at a family member’s house to maintain an off-site backup.

Verdict 6/10. Hold.

Potential new toys: Nest learning thermostat, Romotive Robot, Raspberry Pi

These have taken my fancy and I’m seriously considering them all in 2012. Only time will tell what I buy (and when) but I’m sure you’ll hear about my exploits on the blog!

Windows Phone 7.5 on a Nokia Lumia 800, one week in

The number of Windows Phone-related posts on this blog recently is a pretty big clue that I have joined the 1.5%.

After a year or so of waiting for the platform to go somewhere, I was finally seduced by some rather nice hardware in the shape of a Nokia Lumia 800, inspired in no small part by Tim Anderson’s review of Nokia’s flagship Windows handset.

The Lumia 800 is slightly more expensive than I would like, but I still managed to get it contract-free for just under £400 (and I can’t get an iPhone 4S for that money, much as I’d like to for my wife…).

So, what’s it like? Well, before I answer that, I should explain how I got to this point:

  • I’m a heavy Apple user (two Macs, a succession of iPods, iPhones and an iPad) but I’m not religious about it. If anything, the evangelical approach that Apple fans tend to exhibit turns me off (I know that Apple devices have their faults too) and, frankly, after 4 or so years, I’m bored of iPhones (although I still use a 3GS at work, and my iPad is my social media triage/e-mail catch-up/media on the move device of choice).  I think iOS has become stale – generations of iterative updates have confused the interface in places and it’s in desperate need of an overhaul.
  • I’ve considered Android smartphones but I’m confused by the plethora of devices and operating system versions that may or may not be available for a given device and, frankly, more than a little alarmed by the lax security in the Google Android Market.
  • Blackberry is on a fast track to no-where: as far as I can tell they are in the middle of a transition between two operating systems (Blackberry OS and QNX); their tablet was a complete failure; and the company is now worth less than Apple’s App Store (just the App Store, a small part of Apple’s business).
  • Then there’s Windows Phone, which offers something different. A really innovative user interface, designed around the things we do with our phones; not about the device but about the data.  Except that no-one (well, nearly no-one) is buying it. The channel wasn’t ready (or sufficiently incentivised) and Microsoft has a huge hill to climb but they simply can’t afford not to have a mobile platform. I just hope they don’t try and kill it next year to put Windows 8 onto phone hardware. And I hope that the tie-up with Nokia helps to reverse the platform’s fortunes…
If you want an objective review of the phone and it’s operating system then check out the one that Tim Anderson wrote. Aside from the comments on screen capture (I managed to get around that with a third party unlock – although that option wouldn’t have been available when Tim wrote his review), there’s little there that I disagree with. Meanwhile, Charles Arthur goes into a lot of detail on Windows Phone in his review of the HTC Titan – and he’s not entirely complementary (although he is probably fair). [Mary Branscombe also has a review of the operating system in general, not on any particular device – although TechRadar spreads it over 8 pages so some might just want the verdict.] One thing’s for sure, it’s not for everyone. Maybe Microsoft can sort out some of the usability issues in the next release – after all, it’s always the third version that’s a success, right?
So it’s a good phone with a bad OS then? Well, no, not exactly. I still really like it but here are a some of the comments I have:
  • Hardware:
    • Nokia’s Lumia 800 unbox experience is as good as for the Apple iPhone. In fact, it’s better: Nokia includes a protective case for the phone and there is no need to connect to a PC to activate the handset. Unfortunately it did tell me that I needed to connect to a computer to install an update – I found the Windows Phone Connector for Mac to be horribly buggy (locking up the computer mid-update, at which point I risked bricking the phone by restarting everything…) and I resorted to installing the Zune software on a Windows PC.
    • The handset is attractive and well-made. It feels solid, but not too heavy (just 2g more than the iPhone 4S) and the 3.7″ AMOLED screen features Corning GorillaGlass, so I don’t use any screen protection. I’d like to have seen NFC and a multi-core CPU in the Nokia Lumia 800 specifications but I guess those features will come in a new handset next year.
    • The Lumia 800 takes a micro SIM, which means you might need to work with your mobile operator to get a replacement (I dropped into an O2 store and, although they said it could take up to 24 hours for the SIM swap to take place, it was done in a few minutes) – or you can cut down a regular SIM (as I will be doing later this week when my SIM cutter arrives…).
    • Charging is via a micro-USB cable (supplied in-box, with a mains adapter) but there is a flimsy cover to flip up and expose the socket. I can see that getting broken off and it’s a bit of an annoyance (although arguably it improves the aesthetic appeal of the phone). The port is also recessed which means that not all of my micro-USB cables will work with it. This means I take the Nokia-supplied one everywhere with me (can’t leave one at home, one in the office, etc.).
    • The supplied headset is much better quality than Apple’s stock earbuds as supplied with iPhones – and the earpieces stay in place when I’m running, which is a bonus. I do wish there was a volume control on the headset though, rather than just a play/pause button.
    • Based on my use of the Runkeeper app, GPS seems more accurate than on my iPhone (although the app itself is not as good as the iOS version).
    • Battery life is not fantastic either but it does get me through the day and seems to have improved since Nokia released a firmware update last week – I understand there will be further improvements in January (although I’m not the only one experiencing lock-ups after the phone goes into low-power mode).
    • There’s a built-in hardware diagnostic tool if you dial ##634# – although this tool told me that my battery was 65535% charged… so there are clearly some issues (Simon Bisson tells me that’s a common programming error)!
  • Operating system:
    • It takes a while to get used to the user interface but it does seem to work once you have got your head around it. Charles Arthur is correct about a lack of “information density” and I can’t disagree with his usability gripes either, although I haven’t found them to be a major issue.
    • Charles’ review also told me how to switch between running apps (press and hold the back button); how to display signal strength and battery status (top the top of the screen). After over a week of using the phone I hadn’t found these so, for all it’s good looks, the Windows Phone operating system is not as intuitive as it might be.
    • I wasn’t sure which version I was running – was this 7.5 or 7.1? It turns out that Windows Phone 7.5 (codenamed Mango) is a marketing name and the internal version is 7.1. This is madness, but not the first time Microsoft has let this happen (Windows 7 is Windows 6.1 – or Windows Vista R2 if you look at it another way!)
    • I love the live tiles, and that there is a QR code reader, music and voice seach built into the Bing search app (although Microsoft TellMe is not a match for Apple/Nuance Siri, yet). Local Scout is potentially useful too (although no substitute for real local knowledge).
    • Integration with Office 365 and Xbox Live is strong – which caters for my email and gaming (not that I’m much of a gamer) – and also meant that I had the phone working with my email (and other social media) pretty quickly.
    • The ability to link accounts in the People Hub is a great feature too, auto-suggesting potential links (like the same person on LinkedIn and Twitter) as well as letting me put husband and wife contacts together. Unfortunately the groups facility is severely handicapped, with a maximum of 20 contacts per group (and when you follow hundreds of people on Twitter, as I do, I’d like to be able to use groups to control my contact list).
    • Both the People hub and the applications list could become difficult to navigate as they grow in length but once the reach a certain size (I think, the behaviour certainly seemed to change after I’d had the device a few days) it become possible to click on a section heading (one per letter of the alphabet) and jump to another.
    • Getting media onto the device involves syncing with Zune (or iTunes, via the Windows Phone Connector for Mac), which is a slight annoyance as I’d like to download podcasts directly but the availability of a Spotify app (and the Nokia Mix app provided on the Lumia – more on the Nokia apps later) mean that there is plenty of music available to me when mobile.
    • Highlighting text is difficult, at best, with the cursor appearing underneath my finger.
    • The email signature can’t include HTML links (only plain text, which might then get converted to a link – but that depends on the link and generally doesn’t include phone numbers or @twitterhandle).
    • Screen capture requires an unlock, and installing a third party application that’s not in the marketplace.
  • Third-party apps:
    • The Windows Phone Marketplace is increasing in size but is no-where near Apple (or Android) in terms of app numbers but it does at least support trial purchases (something that Apple really should have implemented in its App Store by now). It’s also got far too many “trash” apps (e.g. simulating a blue screen of death). Some of my most common smartphone apps are there (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Flickr, Amazon Kindle, Shazam, TV Guide, Spotify, Runkeeper) as well as Adobe Reader, Microsoft Lync, Microsoft Skydrive but no Dropbox, LinkedIn, etc. Also none of the apps I use for car parking are available for Windows Phone (although ParkMobile have a Windows Phone version of their app in development). Only time will tell if developers will start producing Windows Phone variants of applications in any great numbers but with limited budgets, focusing on iOS and Android makes sense given Windows Phone’s relatively low market share.
    • One smart feature is the ability to browse the Marketplace on a PC and then send an app to the phone (a bit like buying Kindle books from Amazon) but it comes over the mobile network (not Wi-Fi), which might be problematic if you live in a GPRS-only area, as I do!
    • Nokia has also put some of its apps on the Lumia 800 – I haven’t used them all, but Nokia Drive did a decent job of navigating its way to my hotel in Lincoln earlier this month and will come in handy when we drive to France next year (the maps and voices seem to be free of charge – although my data usage won’t be). Unfortunately that means I have two maps systems (Nokia and Bing) and two music systems (Nokia and Zune) – hopefully they will be more closely integrated in future.
In summary, great hardware (aside from battery life) but the operating system is still a little rough around the edges. In addition, the quantity (but more importantly, the quality) of available apps needs to increase. After that, one final tweet from Tim sums up the situation for me:
Windows Phone 7 #Mango feels like an under-populated city. It will be great if/when the people arrive.
@timanderson
Tim Anderson
[Update 22 December 2011: Added link to @marypcb‘s TechRadar article]

The day I thought my Nokia Lumia 800 had died…

Earlier today I noticed that my week-old Nokia Lumia 800 was switched off. I hadn’t charged it overnight and it had quite possibly run out of power, so I plugged it into the mains charger.

An hour later, it was still dead, and refusing to turn on.

First I panicked. Then I swore. Then I went to Google and found a Nokia support discussion forum post that advised pressing the volume down, power and camera buttons together to reset the phone… I guess that’s the ctrl-alt-del or sleep/wake-home of the Windows Phone world and it seemed to do the trick (at the time I had the phone connected to a PC).

Even though it showed a battery dead display (picture of a battery with a small amount of red inside it) when it turned on, it seems that the phone hadn’t completely run out of juice (or, if it had, then it was charging when it was plugged into the mains charger but needed a reset to take it out of a deep sleep) as it was at 70% when I disconnected it 10-15 minutes later.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this but hopefully it’s not a sign of impending battery issues.

[Update 31 January 2012: Be careful – volume down, power and camera is a hard reset and can result in lost data. Today, despite charging overnight, all night, and being fine when I went to bed, the Lumia was dead this morning. I used a soft reset instead (both volume buttons and power) to bring it back to life. There are more details, and diagrams, in this post at UK Mobile Review].

Deploying apps to an unlocked Windows Phone

Late last night, I wrote about unlocking my Windows Phone using ChevronWP7. I’m not a software developer and my primary reason was to install an app that’s not available in the Windows Phone Marketplace: Screen Capturer.

I’m pleased to be able to report that installing packaged apps (in .XAP format) on an unlocked phone is a very quick process involving just a few simple steps:

  1. Connect the Windows Phone to the PC using a suitable USB cable.
  2. Open the Application Deployment tool from the Windows Phone SDK.
  3. Select Windows Phone Device as the target and supply the filename of the .XAP package.
  4. Click Deploy.

Windows Phone Application Deployment

The status should show Deploying XAP file… before, a few seconds later, it changes to XAP Deployment Complete and the app is available for use on the phone.

Unlocking my Windows Phone using ChevronWP7

ChevronWP7 logoI’m not intending to turn this blog into one-man’s-attempt-to-reverse-microsoft’s-fortunes-in-the-mobile-sector but it’s kind of inevitable that a few blog posts will follow my recent purchase of a Windows Phone.

This one is about unlocking my phone to install non-sanctioned apps – either those that are not in an app store yet, or that are written by myself (maybe, one day).

Some people may recall that Rafael Rivera, Chris Walsh and Long Zheng developed a Windows Phone unlock (ChevronWP7) soon after the platform was launched.  Microsoft wasn’t amused but, cleverly, instead of outlawing them in a never-ending game of cat and mouse as Apple has with iOS “jailbreakers”, they brought the guys in from the cold and worked with them to ensure that their unofficial unlock tools for hobbyist developers use officially supported methods that do not encourage piracy.

The relaunched ChevronWP7 is the result of that process and, a few days ago (after some teething troubles last month), it was opened up again.  For $9 I purchased a code that then unlocks my phone and allows me to deploy applications directly to the device (instead of the $99 it costs via Microsoft) – although I’m not really sure why the app I needed (a screen capture utility described by both Long Zheng and Paul Thurrott) isn’t either a native operating system function (actually, I do know that answer – and it’s related to DRM) or available via the Windows Phone Marketplace.

So, what was involved in unlocking my phone?  And what’s the risk?

The ChevronWP7 site says:

“We believe Windows Phone development should be accessible to anyone. We are providing a Windows Phone developer unlocking service to developers across all skill levels and regions for just $9 USD per phone.”

On that basis, it’s pretty simple, for someone who is happy installing software on a Windows PC (i.e. a developer or an IT professional working with Microsoft tools).  This is what I did…

I headed over to the ChevronWP7 Labs and signed in with a Windows Live ID.

Once signed in, I downloaded the appropriate version of the unlock tool (32- and 64-bit versions are available – I used the 64-bit version).

The unlock tool has a number of pre-requisites but the only one listed on the site when I downloaded it was the Microsoft .NET Framework 4 (with a link to the full version).  I checked that I have this and found that I had at least a version of it (I’m not familiar with the difference between the client and full versions but both following the instructions in Microsoft knowledge base article 318785 and checking %windir%\Microsoft.NET\Framework and Framework64 showed me that I had the v4.0.30319 client installed).

Before I could successfully run the unlock tool (ChevronLabs.Unlock.exe), I needed to install some other dependencies – the first of which, not surprisingly, was the Windows Phone SDK 7.1. Although this has a small web installer, it actually downloaded and installed 648MB of applications and data to my system before requiring a restart.

The next missing dependency highlighted by the ChevronWP7 unlock tool was the Windows Phone Support Tool v2, as detailed in Microsoft knowledge base article 2530409 (again, there are 32- and 64-bit versions available – the Microsoft Download Center links are in the knowledge base article).

With all dependencies installed, I ran the unlock tool again to confirm that my phone could actually be unlocked (some can’t, my Nokia Lumia 800 could). I then purchased a token from the ChevronWP7 Labs site and pasted the code into the unlock tool before hitting the Unlock button. My PIN kept getting in the way and I had to reboot the phone and retry the process at least once but eventually I found myself in a queue of devices waiting to be unlocked.

ChevronWP7, queued for unlock

After about 10-15 minutes I was presented with an unassuming Windows dialog that said something like “Your phone has been unlocked. Hooray!” and the unlock tool status changed to “Phone Unlocked”.

ChevronWP7, device unlocked

Was that all? After all those downloads and queuing the unlock process was really fast. The ChevronWP7 guys have done a really good job at providing an unlocking service that’s simple to use.

As for the risk of unlocking, in theory it’s small – you can lock it again (indeed that’s necessary to publish apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, via Microsoft’s App Hub) and, because the tool uses methods that are sanctioned by Microsoft (i.e. Microsoft’s own tools), it shouldn’t brick your phone either. Having said that, I’m not responsible for any action that any readers take as a result of reading this blog post, including, but not limited to, “bricked” phones…

Windows Phone volume/silence/vibrate and alarms

Those who follow me on Twitter may be aware that splashed out and I bought a Windows Phone last week (Nokia Lumia 800, unlocked, SIM-free). I’m planning a blog post about my first week with the phone (spoiler alert: some minor annoyances but, overall, I really like it) but one of the first items of confusion for me was how to (quickly) switch audio settings between ring, silent and vibrate. I could see it was possible in settings, but surely there is a quick way?

Windows Phone volume barYes, it seems there is (hit one of the volume rockers to bring up the volume bar at the top of the screen and then tap the icon on the right) but, bizarrely, you can either have vibrate or silent – not both…

My need for a silent phone was related to the fact that I use it as an alarm clock and don’t want to be woken by an assortment of messages in the night so I was concerned to read about “the Windows Phone alarm bug“. There’s even a Microsoft Answers post that says it’s not possible to set the volume to 0 and have the alarm sound.

Maybe this was a problem in earlier releases (that post is a year old) but it seems like a non-issue to me… I’ve set alarms with my phone on silent, vibrate, and with the ringer turned down to 0 and in all cases the alarm still works (thank goodness, after all, that’s what I would expect!).

[Updated 21:06 with screenshot of the volume bar]

Logging in to Lync 2010 with the Windows Phone client

Earlier today, Microsoft released the Lync 2010 client for Windows Phone (clients for Android, iPhone, iPad and Symbian are on their way).  And, as I’m an Office 365 user and I bought a Windows Phone last week, I decided to take a look.

Installing the app is straightforward enough but I was struggling to log in using the normal credentials that I use for other Office applications (like Outlook Mobile). From looking at the ratings on the app, it seems I’m not alone – with plenty of people saying “it doesn’t work”.

Microsoft’s advice for setting up Lync on Windows Phone is incomplete but the required DNS settings are documented in the Office 365 community wiki.  The missing piece of the puzzle came from Ben Lee – it’s necessary to specify a username (in the format user@domain.onmicrosoft.com) and an External Discovery URL of https://meet.lync.com/Autodiscover/autodiscoverservice.svc/Root.

Once those additional settings were configured, Lync jumped into life!

(For full client configuration details, with screenshots, check out Ben’s post.)

[Update 21 December 2011: It seems this also works with the iOS Lync client, except that also seems to need an Internal Discovery URL before it will allow sign-in (I used the same URL for both internal and external)]

Windows Phone 7 will fail if the channel is not ready

Windows Phone 7 is a great new operating system. With an innovative and fresh user experience, it could help to put Microsoft back into the mobility game… but they are coming from behind – a long way behind established competition from Apple (and more recently Google) so Microsoft needs every little bit of help it can get from it’s channel partners.

Today is Windows Phone 7 launch day in the UK. Except the channel is not ready.  And that means they’re selling competitive devices.  Not good for a company that’s trying to get its mobile mojo back…

I’m not a journalist, and I haven’t been briefed on Windows Phone 7 launch so I don’t know who the launch partners are but I have seen some of the comments on the web and elsewhere so, this lunchtime, I headed into London’s busiest shopping street to see what the various mobile carriers would sell me.  Remember, I’m a consumer – and I’m also right smack bang in the middle of the demographic that Microsoft wants to sell Windows Phone 7 to.  What I found was dissappointing.  Not so much a big bang launch as a fizzle.

I started out at Vodafone, where the duty manager was happy to give me advice.  He asked what I was looking for (bored of my iPhone, currently out of contract, looking for a personal smartphone, with ActiveSync support for connection to work e-mail) and, to be fair, he asked me if I’d be interested in a Windows Phone.  That was positive, as the Windows Phone merchandising in that store was almost non-existent (a small poster on the wall, and a small transfer on the window, right next to a bigger one advertising the iPhone).  Unfortunately, he didn’t have stock: there had been some mix up with the courier delivering HTC Trophies; and the LG Optimus was, apparently, delayed due to a software fault.  So I left the store empty-handed, although he did ask if I’d consider an Android device if I couldn’t get a Windows one.  Further along Oxford Street, a larger Vodafone store had stock of the HTC Trophy but, again, no real merchandising to indicate that a new device was in town (just a small A-frame outside), despite the entire store being wrapped in Smartphone advertising.

Next up was Carphone Warehouse, who suggested a Nokia N8, or Blackberry Torch might meet my needs.  When I asked about a Windows Phone they said it’s was not available yet, even when I told them that today was launch day and they told me it had been put back by a couple of weeks, before suggesting I try the HTC Desire (on Android).

At Orange, there was at least a big display for their exclusive Windows Phone – the HTC 7 Mozart, so I didn’t talk to any staff in store.

A few doors along at O2 there was nothing at all to indicate there were any smartphones available from Microsoft. Meanwhile they had a big queue (this is lunchtime in London), so I didn’t speak to any staff – but I didn’t buy a phone either.

It’s great to see Windows Phone available in the UK ahead of the US – it’s been a long time since we were first in the queue to get our hands on a device.  Except it seems the channel is not ready.  I wasn’t expecting an Apple-style queue around the block but, if I was a “normal” consumer instead of a geek, I would be sold something else and, if Microsoft can’t get its channel partners to sell their handsets, Windows Phone 7 will be a monumental fail.  I sincerely hope not – as I said at the head of this post, I think Windows Phone 7 is a great new operating system and it has stacks of potential.  I just hope that Microsoft can recover from this false start and ship serious volumes of handsets over the coming months.