You need to know what's on the cutting-edge of technology. Find out what's coming and the unique Warptest POV with just one click on the "Blog" tile.

All posts in Uncategorized

Chromebook will run Android Apps. That’s right.

Chromebook will be able to connect to the Google Play Store and install Android Apps. This was big news on the Google Chromebooks blog on May 16th 2016 and then we didn’t really hear about it again until CES 2017 last month.

The news at CES was about specific Chromebooks supporting this feature: the Samsung Chromebook Plus / Pro & the Asus Chromebook Flip to name two.

Chromebook getting Android Apps - First News

Not All Chromebooks are created Equally

CES showed us that if you are thinking of buying a Chromebook, and you have an Android phone, then you are going to want to examine carefully which of the new Chromebooks are going to support this feature. (I find it hard to imagine an iPhone owner with a Chromebook but stranger things have happened).

Furthermore, this might not be an out-of-the-box feature; according to the official pages of the Chromium project only 3 Chromebooks currently support this (although there is a list of those which will support it in the future, sort of an Ikea “coming soon” ticket).

To get the feature, your Chromebook may need to work in Developer mode. After testing this on a brand-new Lenovo (intel inside) Chromebook, I could enable this thru Developer Mode and access the Google Play Store once but since reboot I have not been able to replicate the scenario. Since then, I discovered this how-to from Google which means retesting this.

Chromebook - Android App Play Store

The Warptest POV

This is a bold and sensible move by Google. Running Android apps on Chromebook is going to make for an interesting and more competitive market. Android phone owners are finally going to have one more reason to make their main productivity device a Chromebook.

Will Android apps run in virtual machine or emulator like Google’s Arc Welder? If not, then Android apps are going need to look and act different from a floating phone / tablet app on a laptop screen. This implies that the next major release of Android Studio will allow Developers to build one app for both platforms with responsive UI. For now, the instructions on optimizing your Android apps are here.

Sound familiar? It should because this is the foundation of Microsoft’s UWP. The Universal Windows Platform has allowed Microsoft Developers to build once and deploy across device types. Admittedly the Microsoft suite of devices is more diverse but this has been a pivotal part of their success.

Chromebook - Android Apps sounds like UWP

Is this another knock Google for copying Microsoft post? No. A recurring theme in this blog is that competition stimulates innovation and emulating ideas is at worst a homage. Why reinvent the wheel?

Can Google emulate this success? Will this push greater Chromebook adoption amongst Android phone owners?

Will Android developers see the value of investing in building “Universal” Android Apps or not? What do you think?

Atlassian Bought Trello For $425 million…

With Atlassian announcing the big Trello news today, should you be backing up your tickets and looking for another Agile style task management app?

Originally the brainchild of Fog Creek Software and their owner, Joel Spolsky forged their own path and became an independent company.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Arguably the most popular of the ticket / post-it style web apps for managing tasks, Trello delivered an intuitive, lightweight solution for those tired of kludgy, unwieldy tools.

Atlassian, the company behind Jira and a slew of other products can be considered the market leader in ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) software both on local servers and the cloud.

So, If Atlassian already has Jira, a powerhouse application for managing projects why would they buy it?

Trello was the go-to option for small companies with a lean perspective and strong Agile methodologies.

Is Trello a “buy it to kill it” acquisition?

There Are No Magic Bullets In The Land of ALM

Trello is by no means a perfect standalone solution for managing your product lifecycle. It does task management well, has some really strong integrations like Slack but compare it to solutions like Github or Gitlab and it falls short.

Github and Gitlab have been in competition to deliver a lightweight, easy to implement, comprehensive ALM solution and they started from the other end of the lifecycle. Both Git (source code) repository management tools. Github has evolved with a wide range of integrations and both now include:

  • Web application for user access and management
  • Issue Tracking
  • Agile Ticket Board
  • Wiki / web pages for individual projects

Trello - githubTrello - gitlab

In a nutshell both companies are fighting hard to be the one-stop ALM cloud solution. Trello meanwhile, created a strong product that integrates with others and offered strong competition to Atlassian’s toolset. Especially Jira but, both have a major shortcoming: companies grow out of them too fast. Gitlab needs to play catch up with their feature set.

If Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) with its Test Manager and full Visual Studio integration is a high-end boom-box stereo; then Jira and the associated Atlassian products are akin to a stackable, component stereo.

The Warptest POV

At the end of the day, the ALM solution you select must match your requirements, budget and technical ability. If you are a bootstrapped startup, used to doing things fast then your needs are very different from an established company with several products / projects.

To answer the original question, will Atlassian kill off Trello? Absolutely not.

Atlassian need a lightweight, lean alternative to compete with the Github / Gitlab ALM marketshare. Expect Trello to receive some tight integration with Bitbucket and Confluence. How will Atlassian address the problem that Trello doesn’t handle Issue Tracking well?

If Atlassian changes one thing in Trello it will to add Issues as subtasks of Tickets or create some form of permalink between the two. Trello tickets = stories and Issues or bugs will have an indexable, searchable relationship.

Atlassian will be able to box in both the heavyweight and lightweight arena. Or do you think it’s time to backup your Trello projects?

Microsoft Went On Stage At IFA…

… Last Friday and when I should have been elbow-deep in weekend ironing I was sitting watching the livestream, taking notes in a new Moleskine notebook and live-tweeting some observations.

The presentation was given by Nick Parker, Corporate VP of OEM and Bryan Roper, Executive Demo Lead.

Bryan Roper - Microsoft IFA
Nick Parker - Microsoft IFA

The presentation was well put together, snappy and interesting, and I came away with several insights.

Things you learn from a Microsoft Presentation:

Nick and Bryan wasted no time letting us know the current stats for Windows 10 adoption. The most significant, 75 million devices running Windows 10 in the first month since release.

Then they got to work talking about some of the things that make Windows 10 so great: –

Windows 10 speaking points - Microsoft IFA

They paid a lot of attention to incredible features like Windows Hello, especially when demonstrating it and the hardware supporting it on a slew of amazing devices. My particular favorites were the Acer Cloudbook (a crowd pleaser for the educational crowd, Windows 10 and a Chromebook killer), Toshiba concept, ultrathin laptop and Toshiba IOT (Internet of Things) ED Logger (running Windows10 IOT, I want this yesterday).

Toshiba IOT - Microsoft IFA

Toshiba ED Logger IOT Windows 10 device.

Whilst I was learning a lot about the incredible creativity and designs coming from Microsoft’s OEM Partners, I learnt a few other things too: –

  1. Microsoft, Google and Apple must have an outstanding school for teaching onstage presentation skills. Nick and Bryan gave incredible presentations (even if it seemed that IFA had them on the clock).
  2. Other than Acer with their Jade Primo Windows 10 Phone (yes, with Continuum on display they labelled it a Pocket PC), no OEM focus on Windows10 Phone. Possibly, until Microsoft announces the official launch date the OEMs are keeping quiet.
  3. Oh Bryan, you were doing so well but then you did the speech marks with your fingers. Don’t go all Doctor Evil on us.
  4. If I wasn’t already fascinated by gaming, the new Xbox streaming to Windows10 would certainly be enticing me.
  5. Apparently according to Nick and Bryan, Asus is pronounced Ay-Seuss NOT Ah-Sus. I’m a little traumatized by that factoid.

The Warptest POV

All in all the Microsoft presentation at IFA 2015 was a polished, exciting display of a wide range of devices for all pocket and use case. With Microsoft expected to make announcements in October, about a Surface Pro 4, new Lumia flagship Windows10 Phones and Band2 I didn’t have high expectations of hearing a lot on OEM phones.

That said I’m confident that the number of OEMs building Windows10 Phones will increase from Windows Phone 8.1

Bryan nailed it with one sentence, “The best device that you have is the one you have with you“.

One thing is certain Microsoft knows how to work well with their OEM Partners and us consumers are going to win big time from these partnerships.

Back to my ironing…

Last Week Microsoft Reported Windows Phone Job Cuts …

These were not unexpected but were sad to see nonetheless.

Many in the professional, tech blogosphere couldn’t help their baser instincts and chose the fact that the cuts were predominantly from the Windows Phone department (and many from the acquisition of Nokia) to spin this with no factual basis to their unknowing public as the end of Windows Phone.

No hard facts, just an opportunity to deride and ignore those who were losing their jobs in favor of a sexier linkbait.

With weeks until Windows 10 launches and down the line Windows 10 Mobile many of these “pro” bloggers indulged in a feeding frenzy worthy of Shark Week.

What Did Happen Then?

Microsoft reported from their News site on July 8th that CEO, Satya Nadella had approved another round of job cuts, totaling 7800.

The focus of these job cuts would be within Phone Hardware.

This was reported as allowing the company “…to record an impairment charge of approximately $7.6 billion related to assets associated with the acquisition of the Nokia Devices and Services (NDS) business in addition to a restructuring charge of approximately $750 million to $850 million.”

This was a quote from Nadella’s email:

Windows Phone - Satya Nadella quote

According to Reuters and several other (actual) news sites, the market and analysts saw this as a positive move and as a result Microsoft stock rose 1.4% on the day.

Windows Phone - MSFT Stock

Data courtesy of the Windows 8.1 Money App

Nutshell, nowhere in the Microsoft announcement did they mention anything more than a writeoff (albeit a big one) for the Nokia acquisition, job cuts or a streamlining inline with the strategic shift that CEO Satya Nadella has been pushing since day one from devices to ecosystem.

Sorry bloggers of doom but it seems your trollgasm was for naught.

The Warptest POV

Is Windows Phone dead? NO, it’s evolving and with it, its business model: –

Windows Phone - reasons to be happy

Windows 10 Mobile has also been available as part of the Windows Insider Program. Many reports from Insiders show a much improved, robust OS; that once completed will continue to vie for attention. The latest insider version was mainly about polish for the UI, more bug fixes and a move to the new Store.

Only today, GSMArena (sporting a stylish new site design) reported that serial leakster @Evleaks (known for his reliable insights) confirmed at least 6 new Lumia phones in 2015. At least one of these can be considered a new, flagship phone. That doesn’t sound dead to me.

How many OEMs make Windows Phone now? More than ever, some are returning members of the Windows Phone family like LG, Samsung, HTC but there are others such as Blu, Yezz, Kazam and Japanese Mouse Computers MADOSMA phone. In addition Windows Phone and Xiaomi delivered Windows 10 Mobile as a ROM for the Xiaomi Mi4 thru the company’s MIUI Forum.

Phones are good but throw in connected devices and wearables (IOT) and you are building an ecosystem. It’s clear that Satya Nadella is a strong believer in the ecosystem philosophy, so it was no surprise to hear about several such devices from Microsoft going thru FCC approval that will support Windows 10 Mobile soon.

Bloomberg delivers the bottom line, at least two more years of Microsoft making Windows Phones. Time for markets to turn on their heads. Time for killer features like Continuum and Universal Apps to impact market share, and time to assess if Microsoft should stay in the phone business.

My tuppenies worth: –

  1. Yes, the trolls of the blogosphere have a huge impact on uninformed consumers. This needs a strong response from Microsoft.
  2. It’s time to dispense with the Lumia brand and rebrand as Surface Phone. The Surface is a solid, easily recognized brand with a stunning design. The flagship phone should emulate that with the same materials and style. If as some have suggested, the Nokia write off is more of the de-Ballmerization of Microsoft then this makes sense; putting Lumia in the past.
  3. Quality not quantity: there is a place for one or two low end phones but having a distinct line of phones where each answers a need is a better strategy than “flood the market with a variety of low end phones”.
  4. Consolidate and work with the OEMs so they are also offering striking, enticing phones to the public.
  5. Keep hammering the evangelism to the Developer Community to ensure that we maintain and improve on app parity in one stream but also ensure that the promise of Universal Apps delivers.

So to all those who indulged in their little trollgasms last week and were ready to nail the coffin shut on Windows Phone, sorry guys. Take your blankie back in the corner. It’s not happening any time soon.

To those whose jobs were cut last week, let me wish you the best of luck finding gainful employment rapidly.

To the consumers out there wondering if Windows 10 Mobile is for them? Don’t just rely on me and certainly don’t rely on the trolls. When the OS is launched get out there and go hands on.Try the phones out for yourself. I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.


The Messaging App Came of Age This Year…

No vertical seems untouched over the last year by messaging apps of different shapes, sizes and often contradictory descriptions.

Let’s take a look at some of the more memorable or notorious companies and their apps from 2014:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Why These Apps?

January        Snapchat suffers a data breach which exposed user details in December of 2013 and finally apologized to its users in January of 2014. The company famous for disappearing messages no doubt wished the bad PR could disappear in much the same manner.

February    Rakuten buys Viber for a cool $900 million. Since then the Israeli startup has radically revamped its Windows Phone app with a gorgeous UX and in the last few weeks announced that Viber will be pivoting from Skype competitor into also becoming a social gaming platform.

Facebook, not to be out done in acquisitions closed the deal to buy Whatsapp for an unbelievable $19 billion. Most commentators responses ranged around gobsmacked.

Mark Andreesen started raving about the viral growth of Slack, a workplace collaboration tool built by former co-founder of Flickr, Stewart Butterfield.

June        Kickass Israeli startup Zula announced raising $3million in their series A round. The company has previously drawn the attention/investment of Microsoft Ventures and may just be fielding the A-Team of start-up talents with the likes of founders Jacob Ner-David and Jeff Pulver, CMO Hillel Fuld and a slew of others.

    Zula hasn’t been resting on their laurels, with the Zula Messaging Summit in New York several weeks ago and rumors of a Windows Phone version in the works for their workplace collaborative / productivity app.

July    Facebook closed the faucet for good on messaging from within Facebook itself. It was their separate Messenger app or nothing to the chagrin of many users. In addition, many questioned the need for a separate messaging app with the acquisition of Whatsapp. For now, it seems that Facebook is happy to have both apps and their user bases.

August    Secret became a household app during 2014 (perhaps in response to the revelations of NSA spying, people wanted the ability to maintain anonymity) but in August CNN and others started to report on a security hole that allowed anyone to identify users with relative ease. Secret patched this but the combination of this flaw and the ease with which anonymity seemed to encourage darker behavior led to some users abandoning the app.

November    Microsoft made big announcements about Lync becoming Skype for Business and the start of a by-invite preview of Skype on the Web. This led to a resounding cry of, “About time!”

        With Lync, Skype and Yammer all Microsoft properties in the messaging arena and Skype seeming to be part of the Office family yet neither integrated with Office, the web or One Drive this was welcome news.

December    Snapchat exercised their rights by having all 3rd party apps built on Snapchat taken down from the Microsoft Store for Windows Phone. It is unclear if this signals interest on Snapchat’s part in launching their own Windows Phone app or if they are protecting users from the alleged security compromises these apps often incur. Either way, Windows Phone users are left hanging by a messaging app that seems incapable of communicating with potential users about its intent.

The Warptest POV

These are just the highlights of the year of the messaging app. There are no shortages of use cases, solutions or controversy (in some cases): –

  • Some apps are designed to ensure the user’s anonymity.
  • Some apps are social networks in their own right.
  • Workplace productivity and collaboration.
  • Extending the conversation to include the results of 3rd party plugins e.g. Slack, Atlassian’s Hipchat and Skype all allow integration with Jenkins or other Continuous Integration / Dev Ops tools. Slack has IFTTT and Hipchat has Zapier for interacting with / triggering actions from other web apps.
  • Some apps guarantee your data will vanish after some time and others guarantee the safety and permanency of your data.
  • Some apps are platform agnostic and support all desktop and mobile OS alike.
  • Some apps seem hellbent on remaining exclusive to only Android or iOS.

One thing is for sure, the user has more choice than ever before and doesn’t have to search far to find the best app to suit their needs for personal and business use.

2014 certainly seems the year of the messaging app. What’s next for these apps and what innovations do you hope to see in 2015?


The Surface Family Is Expected To Grow Tomorrow…

…with the live Webcast of The Surface Event from New York starting 8am PDT:

Surface Event

Most of the big tech blogs have revealed that we can expect to hear about:

  • A Surface 3 Pro: A Windows 8.1 Professional device with an improved physical design with subtle changes to case, bezel and the snap-on touch cover / keyboard but also expect to see 4G/LTE support.
  • A Surface Mini: Finally we might be getting the smaller form factor. Will it be a phablet? Will it also have the expected 4G/LTE? If we do get this device a smaller keyboard is a certainty. The big question is will the Mini be only a Windows RT device or will Microsoft follow in the footsteps of the Asus Transformer T100 and go for Windows 8 Pro?

In a nutshell this picture is going to have either one or two more models as of tomorrow (each possibly with a couple of variations):

Surface Product Line

The Other Rumors

A couple of other rumors have been floating around:

  1. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella will be flying in to participate in the webcast.
  2. The BIG rumor is that we are going to see the launch of a Microsoft Smart Watch. This would be incredible as until now none of the major Smart Watches seem to support Windows Phone.

Surface Watch Mockup

The Warptest POV

This is an exciting time for Microsoft and consumers who love the brand. Not just because as the Surface product line grows undoubtedly many of the Windows 8 OEMS will want to follow suit but if a Surface Mini and a Microsoft Surface / Smart Watch are launched then this is proof positive of Microsoft fully embracing a new attitude of rolling out cutting edge products into competitive markets in a reasonable timescale.

No more 5 year lag between iPhone and Windows Phone, Microsoft has realized and evolved into a company that iterates, develops and launches while a market is still open to competition.

Just as important, we can assume that a Smart Watch would only be the start and as part of the Devices Philosophy being embraced by Microsoft that more Wearable tech will be headed our way from Redmond in the near future.

This bodes well for the consumer and the company alike and lays rest to the issues I raise in an earlier post this year about Microsoft Wearables.

I’ll be watching the live webcast excitedly. How about you?

Today Microsoft’s Kinectimals Arrived on Windows Phone For Free…

As a Windows Phone owner who is also a Dad I’m always happy to try out games that might entertain the kids when desperately needed.

Kinectimals - Windows Phone

Kinectimals Unleashed is a great game that encourages the player to pay attention to their dog (or other animal) and in doing so earn coins that can be used to shop for things the animal may need.

In addition there is the game itself with a variety of challenges for player and animal together.

Offering a variety of scenarios and 85 different animals neither you nor your kids are going to be bored.

The game animation is excellent, detailed and almost life like. The animals behave as expected and the rendering is smooth.

So far I’ve played catch with Toffee the dog with balls and then progressed to Frisbee and it’s fun, engaging and entertaining.

The Warptest POV

Better still I can see how a parent being pressed by their kids for a dog might use Kinectimals as an interim step. Especially as the underlying message of the game is teaching kids all about being attentive to pets and providing the things the animal might need.

If you are a Windows Phone user I’m going to strongly recommend this game for you and your kids for fun and educational value.

Kinectimals ball play - Windows Phone

Kinectimals tiger - Windows Phone

In a nutshell, Microsoft has a great game here and it being free just sweetens the deal. Well played Windows Phone.

Let me know what you think of the game. Enjoy.

Location And Foursquare Are Hot News Again…

Just last week Foursquare announced a $15 million investment from Microsoft with the intent of Bing and other services leveraging the incredible added value of Foursquare’s check-in database.

Now we are reading in Recode about Marissa Mayer’s bid for Yahoo to utilize Yelp reviews for similar purposes by licensing their content.

Just to segue momentarily, I began writing this post before these pieces of news came along and forced me to sit and rethink my perception of the subject (but only slightly). That said this resulted in some major rewriting and ummm challenge of having predictions proven right before I could finish and post the darn thing.

So What?

Looking at the post on Foursquare’s blog announcing the news there are some key pieces of information to be digested:

“…60,000,000 entries and 5,000,000,000 check-ins” is an incredible measure of success and the Microsoft investment speaks volumes about how the data behind all these check-ins will contribute to Windows and Windows Phone apps and services.

I’ve postulated in the past that Foursquare is the source of consumer behavioral / business intelligence just waiting to be analyzed but putting that aside for a moment the key phrase in Foursquare’s blog post announcing Microsoft’s investment is “contextually aware experiences”.

What does context mean in terms of information and content from applications like Yelp and Foursquare?

Yelp - logo - foursquareFoursquare - logo

Context, context, context!

So, what does context mean with regard to location and check-ins?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We can classify check-ins according to: –

  • Location Name.
  • Type.
  • Expected Activity.
  • Expected Duration (a function of Expected Activity).
  • Habitual (or not).
  • Recommendation: explicit when a user adds a strong comment, implicit when they are a frequent or habitual check-in or the Mayor in Foursquare’s case.

Does context simply mean this or is there another layer of data and usage just waiting for Yahoo or Microsoft to take advantage of?

The Warptest POV

Referring back to my segue about having to rewrite this post, I was hurriedly finishing up my post when a post in Twitter on my split screen caught my eye on the Verge about Project Cortana on Windows Phone using Foursquare. The phrase I was writing before I read this post was that “contextually aware services will evolve the Smartphone into the Intelligent Phone” at this point though I decided to pour myself a single malt and not get frustrated at being beaten to the punch three times on one post.

Whether the rumor of the voice activated, interactive Cortana “AI” is correct or not, the evolution of Location and Check-Ins is here. Whether Microsoft and Yahoo attack this in the same direction or not we’ll have to wait and see.

IMHO “contextually aware services” should be aiming for these kind of cases. If I check-in at a coffee-shop then unless I habitually take meetings there (and share that) the expectation is I’ll be there for coffee and maybe a bite to eat; especially if this the coffee shop I use en route to my “I’m at work” check-in. In a nutshell, context should allow us to realize how long based on location someone is expected to be there before they actually check-out.

Context also needs to offer greater monetization opportunities: If I check-in every day at the start of my run and mention a brand of running shoe (or even if I don’t) then a smart sports store nearby could follow me, extrapolate based on average run time / distance the wear on my shoes and after several months offer me a discount coupon for a new pair of running shoes.

notification - foursquaree-coupons - foursquare

Even simpler is the idea of e-coupons for whatever retail outlet you check-in: the moment a habitual (read loyal) customer checks-in the e-coupons should appear in a notification.

This is the “evolution of
the Smartphone into the Intelligent Phone”. Having Cortana deliver this to me intuitively and automatically will make it so.

At the end of the day winning in Locational Social Mobile will not just depend on which data provider the content discovery and services build on but on the added value they offer as a result. A big question is but how will Yahoo compete on Mobile Services and Apps not just in browser search?

Are you ready to check-in?

Test Cases…

If the STP is the strategy we apply to our testing efforts then Test Cases (STC) define our tactical efforts.

In the past couple of years more and more testing projects require definition of tests at Test Case level.

Added Value?

Using a Test Case Management System or incorporating Test Cases into your ALM grants you: –

  • Traceability from Use Cases, Requirements, Specifications through to Test Cases.
  • Coverage analysis.
  • Metrics: whilst I have stated clearly in an earlier post that failing to understand test metrics can lead to abuse, there is incredible value in being able to monitor and evaluate the time and effort required to test either at feature or version level. Should you make changes to the Test Suite containing your Test Cases then prior test cycles will allow you to give a better estimate when planning the next iteration.
  • Analysis / BI: simply creating Test Cases that provide optimal test coverage isn’t enough. There is an ongoing process of refinement based on product maturation, bug discovery and tester experience (as the tester gains deeper understanding of the product / technology being tested they gain a deeper understanding of what and how the Test Cases should be defined and run).

All Test Cases Are Created Equal?

With a hat tip to George Orwell’s Animal Farm let’s say,

All Test Cases are equal, but some Test Cases are more equal than others.

In several cases I’ve encountered this concept on projects I’ve been hired to troubleshoot.

The final bullet above “Analysis/BI” offered me the best solution in these cases. Those Test Cases that are more equal than others are the ones built on shared steps.

If you are prone to what I called Testing Kata in my previous post then after analyzing the Test Cases various patterns should become apparent. If you haven’t built your test suite from scratch this way or as in my case, you inherited a project then you will discover Test Cases that have shared steps. This can lead to several choices: –

Shared Steps - Test Cases

If you don’t have a Test Case Manager / ALM that supports creating Shared Steps as distinct entities to add to Test Cases then don’t despair; fall back on using Excel to map them out.

The Warptest POV

The likelihood is that if this isn’t your first testing rodeo then at least you have Shared Steps and related tests mapped out (at least in your head) for UI Elements so you have a good starting point.

Like many things we do Test Cases involve repetition, both during writing and running. With good analysis and understanding you can extract the Shared Steps and save a lot of time.

The UI example I used in my previous post is a classic example of this:

UI STC Sample - Grid

Once you try this you might be surprised at what a difference having Shared Steps in your Test Cases will make to your efficiency.

If you are having some trouble with this then get in touch. Help is just an email away.

Windows Phone Is Different…

The flat, Metro New Windows UI is often awe-inspiring to those who see and experience it for the first time. I even referred to this revelatory experience in a recent post.

No one can deny that the unique UX sets Windows Phone apart from the other Smartphone platforms.

The Awesomeness of Live Tiles…

One of the things that plagued Windows Mobile the predecessor to Windows Phone was the failure to comprehend that you cannot port desktop UX onto a Smartphone screen (however big they are getting) and expect it to work. It was possibly the biggest reason why Windows Phone came late to market compared to Android or iPhone. Microsoft took a long hard look at what Smartphone UX should be.

One of the first things that someone notices is Live Tiles. The Start Screen of any Windows Phone is populated with Live Tiles, akin to animated, resizable icons both allowing the user to customize their phone desktop and receive information from the App via the Live Tile. For some like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn the Live Tile shows a count of new messages. Others may display actual content such as local temperature or a stock quote.

Windows Phone - Live Tiles

The Missing Link?

Whilst using my laptop recently I was using The Windows Phone Dev Center and decided it would be convenient to pin the shortcut to the Windows taskbar. The rationale for this feature is sound, web applications or sites that behave as applications make sense to have pinned alongside local applications in the taskbar.

I asked myself, wouldn’t it make sense for Windows Phone to allow a similar feature? The fact is they do.

Windows Phone - Pin To Start

With it, the pinned site becomes a Live Tile. In fact this feature can be used for most things on the Windows Phone including Contacts, favorite Songs, Documents and more. The official Windows Phone site explains it nicely here. In a nutshell the Live Tile created will display any update to the entity pinned and it becomes a speed-dial for whatever you pin.

The Warptest POV

This is both an incredibly useful and killer feature for Windows Phone that increases the ROI on selecting this phone platform over the competition. This is one step nearer to feature and UX convergence between Windows desktop and phone OS.

So, next time you meet me for coffee feel free to ask for a demo of my Windows Phone and prepare to be wowed. Who knows it might convince you that your next phone should be a Windows Phone.

How can eSATA Help You?

Suddenly you are looking at your laptop and recalling the time you wouldn’t run out of USB ports. Most laptops today have two, if you are lucky three USB ports and between wireless mouse dongles and external hard drives suddenly you can find yourself wanting to sync / charge your Smartphone but having to safely remove a device first.

What Do You Do? What Do You Do, Hotshot?

I was putting my laptop away and resigning myself to buying a USB Hub when I noticed something called an eSATA port. At first I didn’t pay attention to the USB symbol adjacent to the port.

The hard drive in your computer is likely connected via SATA. eSATA is the external version.

eSATA laptop port

I decided to see if I could find an eSATA adaptor for my external Hard Drive. My local computer store confirmed that eSATA will take a USB plug and should work in most cases but an adaptor doesn’t exist.

To date my external Hard Drive worked, my Disk on Key did not (Windows informed me that the file system was not recognized but that I could format it) and my Windows Phone both charged and sync’d seamlessly. The thing to keep in mind is to be careful when plugging and unplugging the USB devices, it’s a snug fit.

The Warptest POV

Using eSATA as an additional USB port is a really useful hack and this is something 99% of people may not know. Props to Computer Online of Country Center, Modiin, Israel for confirming this.

Hopefully this may help some of you.

Ballmer freebies

Microsoft likes giving us freebies…

… Some of these are hidden gems that most users have no idea exist. One of these is the Microsoft Steps Recorder.

This is a small application that allows you to save a recording of every click and every action you take on your computer.

Don’t Worry This Isn’t PRISM

I know that at first glance this sounds like Microsoft wants you to run a key-logger or something worse but you run the application and it records what you choose.

To run it: –

  • Windows 7: Start > Run > PS [enter] PSR [enter] With thanks to Jim Hazen and Fellow tweep @Srinivasskc for each correcting this in a gentlemanly manner.
  • Windows 8: Charms sidebar > Search > Steps Recorder > select

Windows Step Recorder

  • The application will open a small hovering toolbar on top of all open windows.

Windows Step Recorder App

  • Hit the record button to begin recording and the stop button when you have captured the activity you wanted to capture.

What Has The Steps Recorder Captured?

The HTML file contains a series of screen captures showing each step the user took: each window you interacted with and each click therein.

Windows Step Recorder Results 1

After this there is a text list of the application name and the UI element interacted with.

Windows Step Recorder Results 2

What’s the point of it? The use cases are basically this:

  • If you have a problem that you can’t quite explain to your tech support this is a nice, easy way to record how the problem occurs and send the steps involved to Support so they fully understand your problem. This also makes it easier on Support not having to translate what you are telling them.
  • This is a great testing tool for running test cases and saving the recorded scenario attached to a bug the tester reports.
  • If you need screen captures for a PowerPoint / Training Session / Technical Document this is how to capture the process you want to describe from end to end.

The Warptest POV

This is a great little tool and a freebie from Microsoft. The only major downside of it is the longer the scenario you record, the bigger the file can get. My advice is to work out what you need to record and don’t include redundancy.

What if you need something more though? Microsoft has you covered again. If you need to capture actual video of desktop activity then you can install Microsoft Expression Encoder 4. This is the free version and it works nicely.

Expression Encoder

Expression Encoder allows you to record video of a selected region of the screen or the whole screen, it can also just record voice or video from your webcam. Any post processing / editing you’ll have to do in another tool but plan your capture right and you shouldn’t need to do any of that.

Expression Encoder Walkthrough

In a nutshell, there something for everyone here. If you need help with this then contact me via Warptest here. Happy capturing.

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]