Made me chuckle.
It’s a little known fact (at least, it was to me) that you can actually use your computer’s keyboard when interacting with the Windows Phone 7 & 8 emulators. This feature is somewhat hidden and differs slightly between the major OS versions:
- Windows Phone 8: Page-Down enables computer keyboard, Page-Up disables it
- Windows Phone 7: Page-Up enables computer keyboard, Page-Down disables it
Funny how this is inconsistent between versions. In any case, it eliminates the need for clumsily clicking keys on the on-screen keyboard.
A stunning piece of time-lapse video shot in HD by the crew aboard the International Space Station. Best viewed in full-screen mode.
Disclaimer: This is a cross-post from iDA MediaFoundry, the company I work for.
TechDays is Microsoft’s conference geared toward developers and IT professionals. During the three day lasting event participants are brought up to speed with the latest developments pertaining to Microsoft’s development and cloud platforms. Back-to-back presentations from local and international speakers alike are interspersed with hands-on labs and strolls between the various partners’ booths. The Cronos booth in particular featured its very own barista and was serving hot steaming coffee all day long.
Even though the Microsoft TechDays 2013 conference actually only officially kicked off on March 6, I attended the pre-conference, which was comprised of a whole day of Visual Studio 2012 and Team Foundation Server (TFS) oriented sessions. The former, Visual Studio, is well known to anyone who develops for Microsoft platforms. TFS, however, was a bit of an unknown to me. It turns out to be much more than just a source code repository. Microsoft is positioning TFS as an Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) solution, which includes various testing and project management features. Most of the pre-conference sessions were devoted to ALM, which turned out to be more engaging than it sounds. Here’s a brief breakdown of the sessions I attended on March 5, 2013.
Deep Dive Modern ALM with Visual Studio 2012: It’s a Team Sport
This was the pre-conference’s very first session, presented by Brian Keller, Principal Technical Evangelist for Microsoft (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/briankel/). Keller introduced us to Application Lifecycle Management, a management concept which encompasses all phases a software product’s development: design, development, testing and operations. Microsoft’s solution is called Team Foundation Server and is often misconstrued as merely a source control system. While this is certainly part of what TFS has to offer, it also provides a number of other features like sprint, build and test management. In summary, TFS is a centralized project management tool which integrates source control, bug reporting, test management, sprint planning and pretty much everything else that’s involved with keeping tabs on the progress of a software development project. It goes without saying that this system depends on a mostly Microsoft/Windows-based architecture, although Visual Studio and TFS now also deeply integrate with Git for version control and Selenium for cross-browser UI testing. Keller briefly demoed features like sprint boards, the Kanban board and burn-down charts. Another thing TFS supports QA-teams with is collecting feedback from stakeholders. Visual Studio can be used in tandem with Microsoft Test Manager to manage customer feedback collected by a desktop application which records diagnostic information, screenshots and video screen captures.
Brian subsequently went on to discuss a couple of the most important new features in Visual Studio 2012:
- Revamped unit testing support, now extensible by design with adapters for many 3rd party unit test frameworks, e.g. XUnit, NUnit, etc.
- Team Explorer > My Work with the ability to shelve ongoing file changes and Visual Studio application state
- Integrated code-review process support in Visual Studio 2012
- Updated code diff-tool
- Code clone analysis: quickly surface copy-pasted code throughout Visual Studio 2012 solutions, including fine-grained as well as coarse-grained filtering
- IntelliTrace can now be installed on production servers for enhanced in-the-field debugging (supports breakpoints)
A couple of upcoming new features for VS 2012 Update 2 are:
- Tools for Git, which will allow Visual Studio and TFS to integrate with any Git repository, including those hosted on GitHub and BitBucket
- Updated Test Hub
Brian Keller also tipped us off on the Team Foundation Service being free for the first 5 users. In addition, he also mentioned that all other users above the first 5 are also free until the platform preview ends.
TFS in the Cloud or TFS on-premises?
The second session I attended was hosted by Marcel de Vries, a Microsoft MVP for ALM based out of The Netherlands (https://twitter.com/marcelv). In line with Microsoft’s shift to cloud computing, TFS is offered in two flavors: on-premises and cloud-based. De Vries’ talk was based around a demo of the cloud-based version of TFS, dubbed Team Foundation Service, and a concluding comparison of both flavors. Interestingly, Marcel demonstrated how TFS integrates tightly with services deployed on Azure. Additionally, when TFS and Azure are combined, developers can make use of hosted build servers (at Microsoft’s datacenters). These build “farms” currently support Visual Studio’s major built-in build templates, including Windows Phone 8 and TypeScript. Windows Store builds are curiously missing. For more exotic build types one can set up a local build machine and link it up to the TFS instance in the cloud.
Testing with MTM 2012 and Lab Management
Once more presented by Brian Keller, this session took a closer look at Microsoft Test Manager and Microsoft Lab Manager. Test Manager is a tool which has extensive support for manual testing. It provides a convenient interface for managing test cases and test steps. It supports the QA engineer with step recording and playback, whilst logging diagnostic information for later reference by developers. In addition to formal testing based on test cases, MTM also provides functionality for managing ad-hoc, exploratory testing.
Lab Manager provides tooling for running automated tests on virtual machines which run on Hyper-V or other virtualization platforms (e.g. VMWare, VirtualBox, etc.).
Cross-browser CodedUI Test Automation
Presented by Marcel de Vries. CodedUI tests enable developers and testers to create automated UI tests for applications developed for the web or .NET platforms like Silverlight, WPF and WinForms. Windows Phone support is missing. In order to access and manipulate UI elements, CodedUI tests use Windows’ accessibility framework which was originally intended for use by persons with disabilities to provide features like screen reading. Microsoft recently added compatibility with Selenium, which enables wider browser compatibility, i.e. Firefox and Chrome (in addition to Internet Explorer, of course). Tests can also be parameterized using @-annotations.
Behavior Driven Development was described as one of the best practices compatible with the CodedUI Framework. A small hands-on session demonstrated the use of a code-first approach to implementing BDD’s “Given-When-Then” structure.
Pieter Gheysens hosted the last session of the day specifically about Lab Management. He is a member of VISUG, the Visual Studio User Group, which organizes 10-15 user group meetings per year. Lab Management should be seen as an addition to TFS, which extends the build management functionality provided by Microsoft Test Manager. It is used to provision test environments. It allows quick spawning of virtual machines based on pre-set VM templates. In order to make use of these features, however, you or your organization will need a license for Visual Studio Premium or higher. Next, Gheysens took the time to elaborate on the added-value of Lab Management with Microsoft Test Manager.
Software continues to become more complex and with it, so do bugs. The time and effort required to reproduce potential bugs keeps rising and is thus making software development increasingly more expensive. By focusing on controlling quality in the early stages of development, the cost of resolving bugs decreases. Because Lab Management deals with the provisioning of production-like environments, it has the potential to bridge the gap between development/test teams and devops teams. Ultimately this will shorten cycle times and increase collaboration between the aforementioned teams. Subsequently it enables “deployment readiness”, i.e. the ability to push releases to customers faster and more reliably. Before diving into his extensive demo, Pieter Gheysens enumerated the top three reasons why bugs are so difficult to solve:
- Poor documentation: testers often don’t properly document the steps to reproduce
- Lack of visibility: developers often don’t have a clear understanding of all of the conditions the QA-team is testing in
- Environment/configuration differences between dev, test and devops
This article first appeared here.
Hover.com is a nifty little domain registrar I heard about on one of Leo Laporte’s podcasts. This company is actually run by Tucows Inc. – a rather well known Internet establishment, famous for its software download portal, and its recent foray into the mobile world with Ting.com. Hover strives to simplify domain name and email address management without dumbing it down to the point that the user loses control. In addition, Hover goes to great lengths in providing its customers with first class telephone and online support.
If you’re prospecting, I can assure you these aren’t tall tales. I have moved all of my domains and e-mail over to Hover.com in recent weeks. They’re dependable and affordable at $15 per domain.
Domain names are the web’s plumbing of sorts – casual internet users pay little attention to them, after all, what’s in a name? However, more advanced users realize the added-value of good domain names. Because their lifetime can span multiple years – or in some cases – decades, I recently decided to consolidate my domains and e-mail addresses and move them to a single, trustworthy registrar. This turned out to be Hover.com.
Dumping (on?) Go daddy
Of late, most of my hosting and DNS were managed by Go Daddy, a dirt-cheap and [slightly] lackluster provider based out of Arizona, USA. Go Daddy also appears to be one of the main competitors Hover is trying to target: they provide meticulous guides for Go Daddy customers on topics like unlocking domains, getting authorization codes and the like. Hover is quite clearly touting ease-of-use as its main vector for winning over Go Daddy users. And rightfully so: Go Daddy’s website must be the world’s most convoluted and hairy management interface ever. It turned out to be the single most irritating thing about the whole experience – it’s just so damn hard to figure out!
To be fair, Go Daddy did serve its purpose. Their “buy a domain and throw in hosting and email for free”-approach enabled me to own a bunch of domains and email aliases for next to nothing. But, I got what I bargained for in the end – a lousy management interface and non-existent support. Times have changed, however, and Hover fills in the gaps nicely, albeit at a marginally higher cost.
Fast and easy signup. True to Hover’s credo, the signup process was a frictionless experience. They make a point out of not upselling their other products and services. You only get what you ask for, and in this case that’s a good thing. There’s a fine line between apropos upselling and a downright bombardment of useless offers.
Sadly, Go Daddy falls right into the latter category. Even though these schemes allow for the occasional lightning deal, the customer is burdened with diligently reading the fine print before clicking “Next”. More often than not, customers are left behind somewhat distraught, and uncertain of their purchase.
Easy management interface. As stated above, administration of domain names and e-mail addresses is multitudes more convenient than some of the competition (I won’t harp on Go Daddy any further).
Customer service. While I haven’t required Hover’s telephone support services so far, I can vouch for their online support portal. The turnaround for e-mail based inquiries is one business day or less. They also follow up your request with care if required.
Transfer pricing at just $10. Customers who move over their domain get a great deal: one year over the existing renewal date for just 10 USD. You can optionally let Hover take care of all the transfer hassle free of charge.
[update] Free WHOIS/domain privacy. As Michael Yurechko mentions in the comments, Hover also offers WHOIS privacy at no additional cost, a service other registrars often charge for. With WHOIS privacy, your contact information is hidden from the public WHOIS registry. Hover’s administrative contact information is displayed instead. This keeps spam and other unsolicited email at bay. Thanks for the note, Michael!
Regular pricing is slightly more expensive at $15 per year, per domain. Not quite the bargain when competing registrars come in at a lower price point, e.g. Go Daddy charges $13 for the first year (and $15 for subsequent renewals).
Mailbox pricing at $20 per e-mail address, per year. One sore point with Hover is the rather steep e-mail pricing. Even if all you’re doing is forward to another address, the same pricing structure is upheld. Go Daddy throws in e-mail for mere pennies. Put into perspective, on the other hand, one might argue that $1.67/month/mailbox is hardly a heist. It just depends on how many of them you intend to own, I guess.
No hosting. This is by no means a criticism; I was just dismayed to realize their great service does not extend to web hosting. Hover directs its customers to a select group of specialized hosting companies like SquareSpace and MediaTemple instead.
UPDATE 06/25: Looks like the Audible app is showing up in more and more non-US markets.
UPDATE 06/22 @ 4.40 pm CEST: It seems the direct link isn’t working for UK users for the time being. From what I know it does work from Belgium. Anywhere else?
YES! It’s finally here, with great fanfare – the Windows Phone Audible app. BUT, it’s not showing up in certain non-US WP Marketplaces, and the link the Windows Blog is providing doesn’t seem to be working.. Fortunately, Audible has e-mailed some of its customers a direct link into the Windows Phone Marketplace (on the phone) that does work (just be sure to open it from your phone):
Been waiting for this for 2 years. The Windows Phone platform is now complete.
I moved my blog to WordPress.com with a custom domain, which means WordPress now manages the DNS. However, my mail forwarding service is still coming from Godaddy. To make this work, I had to add custom DNS records to point to Godaddy’s mail servers, like so:
MX 10 mailstore1.secureserver.net.
MX 0 smtp.secureserver.net.
Don’t forget the period at the end of each line.
We’re now almost two weeks later, and still no love from Audible.com! Latest unconfirmed reports state Audible might keep us hanging for another 1-3 months (see http://forums.wpcentral.com/marketplace-apps/190732-3.htm). Like most other Audible members, I’m extremely patient and loyal toward this company, but um, seriously… I wonder what’s taking them so damn long.
Seriously doubting the Windows Phone platform now, Audible is a key app for me.
In my search for more information on the nascent release of the Audible App for the Windows Phone platform, I stumbled upon the following response from an official Audible rep, posted on WPCentral’s forums, stating that the release might be due in 2 weeks:
Dear Audible Listener,
Thank you for contacting Audible!
I understand you would like to know when the Audible Audible for Windows Phone will be released. I would be happy to assist.
After receiving numerous requests from Windows Phone users, we are excited to say that an application is actively being developed. While we cannot yet comment on its exact release date but it should be available for download within 2 weeks, we are confident you will love being able to use Audible with Windows Phone. When the application is complete, we will be announcing it on our website, newsletter, and social media channels.
Thanks for your interest in using Audible with Windows Phone. If you need any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Have a wonderful day!
Audible Customer Support
Thank you for your inquiry. As a valued customer, your experience is important to us. We invite you to answer the question below regarding your Customer Care experience.
Your feedback will help us better serve your future needs.
I’ll be happy to ditch my iPod Nano for the Windows Phone app. This release is long overdue, just get it out already..
BZIP2 compression does seem to offer the best compromise between compression time and compression ratio, as reviewed here: http://odzangba.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/gzip-vs-bzip2-vs-lzma/. I was looking for quick and efficient way to zip up some old files for back up. Bz2 won out for me.
I’m using Ubuntu 12.04′s built-in compression tool.
Massively duplicated files are oftentimes a problem with music and movie collections. Because hunting for dupes by hand is definitely not the way to go, you may want to look to command-line tools like fdupes for help.
fdupes is available via apt-get in Ubuntu, so install it first:
sudo apt-get install fdupes
This is the basic syntax for looking up duplicated files:
fdupes -r [target-directory]
How to delete all duplicates and generate a report at the same time:
fdupes -rdN [target-directory] > textfile.txt
A quick overview of what the options mean:
- -r recursive, traverse subdirectories
- -d delete, delete duplicates
- -N keep the first file, remove other (duplicate) files
Needless to say: use this with caution! Files will be deleted forever.
Find more information on fdupes here (UbuntuGeek).