Marius Gheorghe

Building software : make it work, make it good, make it fast

Steve Jobs biography

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Just for the record i just want to say i REALLY don't care about Apple. (so don't expect this minireview being written from the point of view of a Apple fanboy).


This book has been a very pleasant suprise. I think the author manage to perfectly capture and describe Steve Jobs as a person (which obviously any good biography should do). I particulary liked the depiction of the 70s with the start of the IT industry and the partnership between Jobs & Wozniak (which seems like a great guy) and the description of Jobs "relation" with Bill Gates  (there's a faboulous quote in there "Bill was actually looking down on Steve because he couldn't actually program").

Recommanded.

Slapping Metro on everything is wrong

Just read this article Why Metro now rules at Microsoft157158 and it seems to me that MS will just blindly slap Metro on everything. They already screwed up the Xbox 360 UI with Metro (the "old" NXE had much higher usability) and it seems they won't stop here. The "problem" with Metro is that it really works only with touch input. On the 360 navigation on the Metro enabled UI with the left analog stick is painful inadequate (you're basically navigating in sub tiles all part of a larger tile) and you also have to use the "shoulder" buttons for navigating the top tabs. Compare this with NXE where you just flip left/right with the analog stick

So Microsoft please stop slapping Metro on everything. It only works fine with touch input .

The road

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Such a great book. It’s worth a read even if you saw the movie.  A book about a parent’s love for his child. The scare, minimalist writing style is also very interesting.

A song of ice and fire (first 5 published books) minireview

   This post was long time coming. So i finally read all 5 published books for "A song of ice and fire". I manage to break my own "don't read a series until is published entirely" mantra because i obviously watched the show, read the first book (just to see how faithful the show is to the book) and then, lo and behold, i basically read them all :)
    The series is very good. From my point of view the only "different" thing GRR Martin does (compared to other fantasy authors) is how he juggles with a huge cast of characters. Impressive. The biggest downside i'd say is the variable quality of the volumes (the first and third are top notch, the rest not so much).

So, as a conclusion, ASIOF is definitely worth a read.

Few general tips for Windows Phone development

- don't use ZUNE for deployment. Use WPConnect (a tool which comes with the SDK. You'll find it in \Windows Phone\v7.1\tools\wpconnect). It's much lighter than Zune and it also allows you to debug launchers/choosers.

- don't close the emulator. Never.

- learn the difference between pivot/panorama and use them accordingly (if it helps think of the pivot as a tab control).

- it's a good idea to not hardcode colors and use the accent color (for instance where you want to "highlight" a specific text).

- make sure you test your app in both themes.

- think of the navigation flow of the app. Remove pages from the navigation stack when it doesn't make sense for the user to "get back" with the back key.

- fast, Fast, FAST. I can't stress so important is to have a app which feels fast.

- the JPG decoder is faster than PNG. Consider this when choosing the format of images for splash screen, backgrounds etc.

- make sure you understand the difference between "content" and "resource" when dealing with app resources.

Some thoughts on Windows 8

So i installed the developer preview of Windows 8 (i was actually more interested in Visual Studio 11 rather than Win8) and i decided to share some opinions. To be honest since Win8 has been unveiled for the first time, i've been a bit puzzled about the decision to have the same OS for both tablets and desktop and combine those 2. (i mean touch is so different from mouse & keyboard that it makes no sense to mix them together).
 
Tablet : as a tables OS , Win8 looks fine. But to be honest, i don't really think it matters. Apps matter. Sure it won't be a problem from MS to get good apps for the tablet (i actually think by the time it alunches next year, MS will more apps than Google's honeycomb). But the way it see it, there's no market for tablets. I simply don't think there's going to be a "post PC" era. PCs (desktops and laptops) are here to stay. The keyboard (which is basically the best way to interact with a machine) is here to stay. Sure, MS can't affort not to sell a tables OS. But it looks like they spent too much time working on the "tablet side" of the OS in detriment of theit bread & butter : the desktop.

Desktop : well there are improvments of the desktop OS (it took what....5 years to finally get proper multimonitor support ?) but they certainly didn't improved the OS as much as i would have liked for the desktop use. Worse still they started to change things that only make sense for the tablet :

- replacing the start menu with the table specific start screen. This doesn't make any sense (even if you can tehnically "use" that screen with mouse&kb). Nobody is going to launch apps by scrolling horizontally and looking for a tile with the app name. If you want to improve the OS just add a freaking keyboard launcher not the tiles screen.

- they started replacing "default" controls with their "touch" equivalent (for instance in Control Panel the checkboxes have been replaced with the new Toogle Control). Using the toogle with the keyboard is bad (not to mention that toogle takes way more screen space than the checkbox).

So, in conclusion, i have the feeling Win7 will be the new XP. We're going to use it for a while....

RewritePath issue on ASP.NET 4

  Ported a app from ASP.NET 2 and 4 and had a interesting issue with HttpContext.RewritePath.  Basically I was doing url rewriting using to ashx handler to get nice urls on asp.net 2. When I moved the app to 4 all postbacks on pages with rewritten url were broken (even if I was running the app with the backward compatible settings).

Found a workaround (not perfect but it gets he job done). Basically RewritePath has a parameter called “rebaseClientPath” which “updates” the path after url change. This rebase doesn’t seem to work anymore on ASP.NET 4 so make sure it set the param value to false.

Hope this helps someone.

Waiting for async

The C# 5 async/await look so promising for multithreaded apps. I think anyone who writes SL code and does async requests with callbacks in which we have other calls with their own callback etc await async. I mean…the code written with async looks so clean. Frankly I regret they spend all that time working on “dynamic” (which is mostly useless unless you’re doing COM/DLR interop. And who does DLR inteop ?!) instead of doing async.

Ribbon is bad UI

Just updated Windows Live Writer and the latest version has the useless Ribbon UI. Don’t get me wrong Ribbon might be useful for beginners but it’s useless for advanced users. The problem is that the UI is mouse “oriented” and  most “actions” don’t have keyboard shortcuts. Also on some apps that use Ribbon  the toolbar buttons tooltips don’t have the keyboard shortcuts.

Live Writer is the kind of app that really didn’t need Ribbon. I see it’s becoming a trend at Microsoft and I don’t really like it.

The crimson shadow review

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It was ok. "A fine adventure" to quote the front cover but nothing really to write home about. This was the first trilogy i read entirely on a Windows Phone 7 device (using Freda which is basically the best ebook reader on the platform now). Reading on a WP7 phone was a ok experience but unfortunately not better than reading on my ancient HP pocket pc.

Building my own

It's nice to be a developer. If no one builds the app i want i can just build it myself. And this is exactly what i have done for Windows Phone 7. Here are my current projects (OSS) :

 

News for Hackers - a client for HackerNews (code located here159)

 

Searcher - a simple app that allows you to search using multiple search engines (code located here160)

 

Unfortunately i can't publish them to the official WP7 marketplace (because i can't create a developer account from Romania) but feel free to try them if you have developer unlocked phone.

 

HackerNews OSS project for WindowsPhone 7

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I really like HackerNews but the WP7 browser is not really the best way to enjoy the site content. So i cooked up NewsForHacker, a OSS app that will hopefully make HN more enjoyable on a WP7 device.

Unfortunately i can't publish the app on Marketplace (can't create a dev account from Romania) so if you think you can help with this, please contact me.