Getting Mango & the NYC Windows Phone Camp 10-19-2011: Re-Cap

A few weeks ago, I expressed excitement that “Mango is coming! Mango is coming!”.  Well, Mango is HERE!  Microsoft began rolling the “Mango” update out to virtually all phone and carrier combinations on September 27, 2011.  I was lucky enough to get Mango on my phone on the 28th.  The update took about an hour, but went smoothly.  When it was done, it was like having a new toy!


The Little Things

IMG_4360 - CopyThere’s a plethora of places on line that have documented most of the new Mango features.  While it was fun to play with the immediately obvious ones (hands-free texting!), it’s been a pure joy to discover more of the minor polish ones over the course of the past month. 

I’m talking about little things like, when you pin a person to the start screen, his or her live tile will display information about all of the communications you have with that person.  For example, it will display his or her latest social network update, or that you have X new messages from that person…  whether those are SMS, email, or Facebook messages.  (Oh, look! 2 new messages from Dani on the right.)

Also, when you click into a person’s profile (contact info) on the phone, there is a new “history” tab.  This is a great summary view of all the communications you have had with this person.  You can see my communication history with Dani Diaz on the left.

I continue to learn new “little things” about Mango all the time, including while writing this post!  I literally just read on the Windows Phone blog that you can update your Facebook status using no hands.  That’s right, you can use the voice commands to dictate a status update and have it post to Facebook.

Background Streaming Rocks!

XPN2OnTuneInRadioTuneInRadioOne the Mango features I was awaiting the most was the ability for 3rd party apps to enable background streaming.  Last.FM and TuneIn Radio are two apps I frequently use when I’m cycling.  These apps were crying out for this feature so that you can check email or SMS or whatever while continuing to listen to the music.  This didn’t happen ‘automagically’ once Mango appeared on my phone.  The developers of those apps had to update them first. 

Luckily that happened in the Marketplace within about 24 hours after I had gotten Mango! Winking smile The image to the right is of my phone playing XPN2 from Philly via TuneIn Radio while I’m out of the application and on the home screen.

Many of Mango’s new features don’t become unlocked until developers like YOU start taking advantage of them in your application code!  Which brings me to last week’s phone camp in NYC…

Windows Phone Camp NYC

Last week I attended (and spoke at!) the Windows Phone camp event in New York City.  Wow! What a great event.  About 120 developers (and at least one sales guy) came out to learn about building apps for Windows Phone.  Most of the day, there was standing room only across the back of the room.  I didn’t manage to snap the picture below until the end of the day after some folks had left.

IMG_4330 Stitch

IMG_4335I delivered a session on using Windows Azure to enable backend features for your Windows Phone application.  But while I wasn’t speaking, I was learning.  Over the past year, I’ve been focusing most of my attention to Windows Azure and the cloud.  My teammates Dani Diaz, Glen Gordon, and Joe Healy have been “all phone, all the time”.  Dani & Glen were in New York to run the Phone Camp.  So I was happy to have the opportunity to learn from these guys.

For the first half of the day, Dani & Glen covered the fundamentals of the platform and walked us through how to use the developer tools.  The second half of the day was all hands-on.  The room was set up with tables & power outlets so folks could code some apps.  A challenge was put forth to all of the attendees to get an app built (or at least prototyped out) by the end of the event. 

While folks were coding, Dani, Glen, and I helped answer questions and get folks past any technical roadblocks they were having.

App Off Challenge

IMG_4337 - CopyAt the end of the day (for real… not the cliché), we had an “AppOff” contest to determine who build the best app.  Anyone who had an app or app prototype working got to come up to the front of the room and do a two minute demo of what they built.  We had 14 folks brave enough to get up and demo what they built to the rest of the room!  It was just a small sample of what folks were working on, but there was so much creativity in the room.

Once the demos were complete, votes were taken for the best app shown by counting raised hands. Every attendee got to vote for three apps. (Rumor has it that some folks may have voted more than three times. Smile)  It was amazing to see what folks accomplished in just 2-3 hours of time.

Some of the apps that stood out in my memory were:

  • MTA Bonus Calculator – This app helps you calculate how much money to put on a MetroCard in order to have enough for full fares.  If you’ve ever bought a “MetroCard” for the NYC subway system, you know that they give you a “bonus” amount of money for every dollar you put on the card. However, this “bonus” amount is never enough to cover a fare.  Therefore, most people frequently end up with MetroCards that have weird dollar amounts on them below the $2.25 needed for a single fare.
  • Christmas In NY – Makes different sound effects when you shake the phone, including Santa saying “Ho, ho, ho!”  This app seemed silly when I first heard about it, but the gentleman who made it said that these types of apps usually sell well in mobile marketplaces!
  • See Your Pictures Right – Allows you to edit photos taken on the camera and rotate them to the proper orientation.
  • Volcano Dash – A video game that has a stick figure out running rocks and lava being spewed from a volcano.
  • Captured Moments – A “journal” type app that lets you note & record significant milestones in your family’s life along with photos.  (i.e. baby’s first steps, etc.)
  • Roman Numeral Calculator – Just what you think it would do.  It performs math on Roman numerals and converts to/from digital numbers. Great for helping kids learn Roman numerals!
  • K Food – A “guide” app that helps a food noob learn about different types of Korean foods so they are familiar with what to order in a restaurant.

Escape NYC

IMG_4336 - CopyThe app that got the most votes was called “Escape NYC”, developed by Bill Lam.  Upon seeing this demo, my first reaction was, “I want that app…  now!”

Bill started his demo by asking how much the audience loved getting stuck in traffic at the end of a long work day.  Of course, no hands went up for that one.  Manhattan is an island.  The only way on or off of it is through a limited number of bridges and tunnels.  With somewhere around 2-3 million people occupying Manhattan during an average work day, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that these water crossings are often clogged when the 5 o’clock whistle blows * .

Bill demoed how his “Escape NYC” app displays, on one screen, the thumbnails for traffic cameras at each of the crossings.  You can see a picture I snapped of “Escape NYC” running in the emulator to the right.  Bill even arranged the camera thumbnails in the order the crossings are located around the island.

While Bill’s application was not complete, I think the most compelling part of this story is just how much he got done in two hours…  considering the fact that Bill is not a developer!  Bill proudly included the tagline “Salesperson Creates WP7 App in 1 hour” in his app’s title area.  He went on to emphasize to the audience that he is not a coder and he couldn’t believe how easy it was to build an app for Windows Phone.

This is an app that B&T ** folks like myself will absolutely want to have if Bill gets it published in the Marketplace.

* - Note: Does the 5 o’clock whistle still blow?  I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it.

** - Note: The term “B&T” refers to “bridge & tunnel people” and is typically used in a derogatory manner by those fortunate (or crazy) enough to afford to live in Manhattan to cast a negative light upon those who are not.  This author feels fortunate to not live in Manhattan. Winking smile

*** – Note: I find the fact that Manhattan-ites use the term B&T to describe non-Manhattan-ites to be quite odd.  Most Manhattan-ites are “B&T” folks themselves as no one is actually from Manhattan (except for Andrew Brust). 

What’s Next?  More Windows Phone Camps!

If you missed the Phone Camp in NYC last week, you still have more opportunities to attend one in our area (or travel to catch one elsewhere on the east coast).  The Windows Phone Camps are coming to SUNY New Paltz, NY on 11/10 and Hofstra University on Long Island on 12/1.  If you attended, but know a friend, co-worker, or colleague who couldn’t make it, let them know about the other camp events coming up.

Here is the remaining schedule for this event series:

Date City  
10/27/2011 Champlain College, Burlington, VT Registration
11/2/2011 NCSU, Raleigh, NC Registration
11/4/2011 Fort Lauderdale, Fl Registration
11/8/2011 UCF, Orlando, Fl Registration
11/10/2011 University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fl Registration
11/10/2011 SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, NY Registration
11/15/2011 Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va Registration
11/17/2011 Howard University, Washington, DC Registration
11/29/2011 Pittsburgh, Pa Registration
12/1/2011 Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY Registration
11/29/2011 Georgia Tech, Atlanta, Ga Registration

Get YOUR App On Windows Phone!

If you have an idea for a cool app, you really should try using the Windows Phone developer tools to build it and get it into the Marketplace.  Also check out the APP HUB where you can get developer tools, learn about application features, understand common task for Apps and register and load your APP!