Archive for August, 2010

Windows Phone’s Real Secret Weapon: Developers, Developers, Developers

Paul Thurrott Windows IT Pro InstantDoc ID #125878

When it comes to smartphones, we’re currently at the “Wild West” stage. The PC industry was at this stage in the early 1980s. A wide number of players—among them Apple, Atari, Commodore, Sinclair, Texas Instruments, and IBM—offered a vast range of incompatible platforms aimed at the first generation of individual computer users. Over time, the PC industry consolidated down to just a few major platforms. As the industry has matured, there’s been a further consolidation in the number of companies offering PC-compatible products.

Such will be the case with smartphones, but it’s going to be a while before we get to that point. We’re still in an early, very volatile period where companies are still jockeying for position. Anyone who believes that Android or iPhone or whatever has some kind of a lock on the smartphone industry simply doesn’t understand how this works. And that reality means that Microsoft’s new entry, Windows Phone, isn’t the Johnny-come-lately some have supposed. In fact, we might eventually come to understand that Microsoft’s failures with Windows Mobile were a godsend for the company, paving the way for Windows Phone’s eventual success.

Of course, anything can happen in the future. But I’ve made the argument before that Microsoft is, above all else, a platforms company, and that platforms matter. And if the software giant has proven anything in the days leading up to the release of Windows Phone, it’s that it still gets platform. No company on earth—not Apple, not Google, not RIM, nobody—can rollout a new platform like Microsoft. And in the case of Windows Phone, watching this thing evolve in real time has been both fascinating and illuminating.

The challenge facing Microsoft is enormous. The two up-and-coming cross-over smartphones—that is, those smartphones that have seen enormous success with both consumers and businesses—are Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. But these platforms have some interesting deficiencies that could benefit Microsoft in the long run.

Both are based on minority UNIX-based platforms: Mac OS X in the case of the iPhone and Linux in the case of Android. Neither of these platforms ever made any appreciable inroads in traditional PC markets—Apple marketing notwithstanding—but they’re certainly turned the tables over in the smartphone space. From a developer perspective, however, these platforms are a disaster. The iPhone requires you to use a Mac for development, learn a cryptic and mostly horrible development environment, and learn yet another programming language, the ancient and archaic Objective C. Android is even worse. It’s based on Java—a language we had pretty much given up on from a client computing perspective—and the developer tools are stodgy and weird.

It is here where the Windows Phone advantages start to become obvious. Windows Phone is based on Silverlight, which in turn is based on Windows Presentation Foundation, which is based on the managed code goodness of .NET. Developers that want to write Windows Phone applications will generally do so in the familiar confines of Silverlight, using a familiar and logical language, C#. Those that are writing games will generally do so using the XNA Framework, which allows cross-platform development between Windows (on PCs), the Xbox 360, and Windows Phone. This means that developers can very easily port games between these three platforms. Exciting? You bet.

Windows Phone developers can also take advantage of modern, well-designed, and familiar development tools, including Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend, the latter of which is used to interactively create UIs and other visuals. And Windows Phone development is accessible, even to beginners, because the tools are all free. Microsoft provides a Visual Studio Express version for Windows Phone as well as a free version of Expression Blend. And there’s no reason to buy a Mac. The tools all run on the Windows PC you already have.

From a documentation standpoint, Apple has again set the bar, and iPhone/iOS developer documentation is available far and wide, in print, electronic, and even video forms. Fortunately, Microsoft has risen to this challenge. Its ever-evolving documentation—also available in electronic and video forms, and soon print as well—is both excellent and exhaustive. When you consider that it’s been just five months since Microsoft announced this platform, the sheer amount of developer documentation that has appeared is absolutely astonishing.

The first glimpse of developer excitement around Windows Phone was seen a few weeks back when Microsoft announced a shockingly vast collection of Xbox Live games that will ship when the phone launches in October. What’s most amazing about this announcement is a point the tech press missed completely: The announced collection of games represents only a subset of what third-party developers will ship when Windows Phone launches because developers can write both Xbox Live and non-Live games for Windows Phone. Plus, the announcement didn’t concern regular applications, which are easier to write and far less restrictive.

Windows Phone developers can integrate their code into the UI in ways that are impossible on other phone platforms. Windows Phone offers integrated panoramic experiences called hubs, which developers can plug into. For example, consider a photo-editing utility. Sure, developers can (and will) create standalone apps for Windows Phone, just as they do on the iPhone. But developers can also choose to integrate this editing functionality directly into the Pictures hub, providing users with a more seamless experience. These integration pieces are going to put Windows Phone over the top.

As I noted earlier, there’s no way to know about Windows Phone’s future. But using the developer support for this platform as a guide, Windows Phone is already a winner and an obvious new platform for the millions of developers already targeting the Windows desktop today. There are other factors that will impact its success in the future, such as competitive threats, Windows Phone’s user experience, and corporate deployment capabilities. I’ll examine these and other Windows Phone concerns in the months ahead.

If you are interested in Windows Phone development, hop on over to the Windows Phone Developer website. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the breadth and depth of the available content.

10 Ways to Damage Your Career

10 Ways to Damage Your Career - By Rachel Zupek, CareerBuilder.com writer

Title & Details

Advanced Search >> All workers share the common fear of getting fired. Today, people are not only scared of being fired; they fear getting laid off from their jobs. Neither is a situation any worker wants to face. What’s worse, many factors that play a huge role in making these decisions are out of your control, such as the economy, performance and longevity in the company. To best avoid being faced with a pink slip of any kind, employees should make sure they aren’t doing anything to themselves that might affect this decision.

Avoiding self-destructive habits at work seems like common sense, but reasonable thinking is sometimes forgotten when employees try to stand out or learn new habits, styles and techniques in order to stay afloat in their lines of business.

To avoid your own career self-destruction, avoid these 10 habits:

1. Not keeping track of your accomplishments

Let’s say the boss is deciding whether to keep you or your co-worker on board. He sits you down and asks, “Why should I keep you?” If you have nothing to show or tell to prove your case, chances are, you’ll be the one getting the boot. Additionally, it’s good to keep a running list of awards, promotions and accomplishments to showcase when it comes time for annual performance reviews or when asking for a pay increase. Plus, you never know when you’ll end up looking for new work. If you don’t keep track of all the good you’ve done, you might not remember them when it’s time to update your résumé.

2. Not keeping your skill set current

The business landscape is ever-changing, as exemplified by this tough economy. Right now, you’re just trying to keep your job and the best way to do that is to show your employer they are getting the maximum return on their investment: you. Keeping your skill set current, along with expanding it, will show your employer you’re worth their money, especially when companies are looking for ways to reduce expenses.

3. Not delivering results

Common sense will tell you that business is about accountability. If you don’t contribute to the bottom line, if you cost money instead of make money or if you harbor a sense of entitlement for simply having put forth effort, you are guaranteed to fall by the wayside.
4. Efficient does not equal effective

Those who think that communicating via e-mail, because it’s faster than actually talking with people, fail to recognize the importance of personally connecting with others in today’s highly automated, technological and competitive environment. One thing that will keep you afloat in this economy is your relationships with people, and those relations can’t be grown through e-mails, text messages or BlackBerry chats.
5. Thinking you’re irreplaceable

There is no room for “divas” in the workplace. There are millions of people looking for work right now and, chances are, more than a few of them could do your job. As soon as you convince yourself that you and only you can do the job “right,” your star will surely start to fall.
6. Knowing all the answers

Knowledge is power. Professing to know it all, however, will stall your career as it shows that you’re uninterested in learning about new ideas and approaches. To stay afloat in today’s job market, workers need to ask questions, stay current and listen to new ideas.
7. Surrounding yourself with “brownnosers”

The old adage remains true: You are the company you keep. If you associate with brownnosers, it’s most likely because you like having others boost your confidence. This fact will not be lost on those around you. Managers and other professionals will have no problem replacing you with someone who accepts and encourages intelligence and creativity in others.

8. Taking all the credit

Give credit where credit is due. Most managers are smart enough to realize when you inappropriately take full credit for positive outcomes despite the help or input received by others. If you credit other people where they deserve it, you’ll be seen as team player, a key element to any successful group. Plus, you’ll probably find that you start seeing the same acknowledgement from your co-workers.
9. Not tooting your own horn

Chances are your boss doesn’t have time to keep a running tab on each of his employees, so how else will your boss know how valuable you are to the company unless you tell him? Bragging is one thing, but letting colleagues in your industry know of your success through case studies, promotion bulletins or other such tools is another. It’s important to recognize the value of letting others know about your accomplishments as long as you go about it in the right way.
10. Losing perspective

Those who fail to recognize their shortcomings are destined for the unemployment line.
Intuitive business people recognize that, despite their best attempts to do everything right, they may sometimes approach roadblocks and need to seek the advice and perspective of a respected friend, colleague or even a business coach. Acknowledging that you aren’t perfect will earn you respect in the office.

Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Copyright 2009 CareerBuilder.com. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.

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Happy Holidays – For other meanings of “Happy Holidays”, see Happy Holidays (disambiguation).

Happy Holidays – For other meanings of “Happy Holidays”, see Happy Holidays (disambiguation).

Social conservatives have alleged that “Happy Holidays” is a neologism coined deliberately to be an all-inclusive generic greeting for the holiday season which includes Christmas for those who do not celebrate it, but instead other winter holy days like Hanukkah or New Year’s. However, it is unclear whether “Happy Holidays” is indeed a recent or politically -motivated coinage. Widespread commercial use of the term “Happy Holidays” dates back at least to the 1970s. Use of the term may have begun with the Irving Berlin song “Happy Holiday” (released in 1942 and included in the film “White Christmas”) or the term may predate that song.

Happy Holidays – For other meanings of “Happy Holidays”, see Happy Holidays (disambiguation).

Social conservatives have alleged that “Happy Holidays” is a neologism coined deliberately to be an all-inclusive generic greeting for the holiday season which includes Christmas for those who do not celebrate it, but instead other winter holy days like Hanukkah or New Year’s. However, it is unclear whether “Happy Holidays” is indeed a recent or politically -motivated coinage. Widespread commercial use of the term “Happy Holidays” dates back at least to the 1970s. Use of the term may have begun with the Irving Berlin song “Happy Holiday” (released in 1942 and included in the film “White Christmas”) or the term may predate that song.

In the United States, it can have several variations and meanings:

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Apple eyes kill switch for jailbroken iPhones

By Dan Goodin in San Francisco • Get more from this author
Posted in Mobile20th August 2010 22:38 GMT

Apple eyes kill switch for jailbroken iPhones

Apple has applied for a patent covering an elaborate series of measures to automatically protect iPhone owners from thieves and other unauthorized users. But please withhold the applause.

The patent, titled “Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device,” would also protect Apple against jailbreaks and other unauthorized hacks to the device, which were recently excepted from copyright enforcement.

The application, which was filed in February and published Thursday, specifically describes the identification of “hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking, or removal of a SIM card” so that measures can be taken to counter the user.

Possible responses include surreptitiously activating the iPhone’s camera, geotagging the image and uploading it to a server and transmitting sensitive data to a server and then wiping it from the device.

Rest assured that this jailbreaking identification, the application would have us believe, is simply a means of protecting owners from unauthorized users.“Access to sensitive information such as credit card information, social security numbers, banking information, home addresses, or any other delicate information can be prohibited,” the application states.

“In some embodiments, the sensitive information can be erased from the electronic device.

For example, the sensitive information can be erased directly after an unauthorized user is detected.”But elsewhere, the patent betrays ulterior motives that are considerably more self serving.“An activity that can detect an unauthorized user can be any action that may indicate the electronic device is being tampered with by being, for example, hacked, jailbroken, or unlocked,” the patent continues.

“For example, a sudden increase in memory usage of the electronic device can indicate that a hacking program is being run and that an unauthorized user may be using the electronic device.“’Jailbreaking’ of an electronic device can generally refer to tampering with the device to allow a user to gain access to digital resources that are normally hidden and protected from users. ‘Unlocking’ of a cellular phone can generally refer to removing a restriction that ‘locks’ a cellular phone so it may only be used in specific countries or with specific network providers.

Thus, in some embodiments, an unauthorized user can be detected if it is determined that the electronic device is being jailbroken or unlocked.”The application describes plenty of bells and whistles.

They include voice-printing of the owner to detect unauthorized users (what could possibly go wrong with that?), activating the accelerometer to detect if thieves are in transit – even a “heartbeat sensor.”Ignoring the possibility that a false positive in Apple’s proposed theft protection might activate the spy cam while the user is in the bath, or in the middle of some other intimate moment, this technology seems Orwellian for another reason:

It gives Steve jobs and Co. the means to retaliate when iPhones aren’t being used in ways Cupertino doesn’t expressly permit.But remember, it’s for your own good. ®