# Thursday, 25 November 2010

Windows Phone 7 comes with a Map program which obviously ties into Microsoft's Bing Maps service. How effective is it when we try to use it here in Malaysia? Check out the video.

If you have don't have the 10 minutes to check out the video here's a quick summary

  • Navigation is enabled only for certain countries like US or UK. So you'll need to set the phone's region to those countries to even SEE the routing button in the Maps program.
  • While Bing can identify road names and perform routing, we can't SEARCH for road names in Bing Maps yet.
  • No voice navigation means it might not work too well as a driving aid.

So… don't go tossing out your external GPS unit just yet.


Thursday, 25 November 2010 09:51:59 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, 20 November 2010

For record keeping purporses, and also as a reference post if god forbid the sensor comes crashing down one day. This is how I mount my Kinect sensor.

DSC00021

The sensor is mounted on the top of your typical flat screen TV. I was going to make a stand using instructions provided here, when I encountered 2 problems.

The first was that the top grills behind my TV ran the full length of the TV, so there’s no center spine area to put the tape on. Therefore I resorted to the use of a smaller tube.

DSC00024

I’m guessing some Asian parents should be familiar with this nutmeg oil can, it’s diameter was just the right size to angle the platform. Speaking of which, the 2nd problem was the platform.

DSC00023

Surprisingly I couldn’t find a simple no entry sign, or anything like that in the ACE Hardware I went to. I saw lots of STICKERS, but no signs. I ended up with a cutting mat that has a melting point of 70 degrees Celsius.

DSC00026

I used industrial strength velcro for all removable points, then I used some duct tape as an anchor to help ease the force of the platform pushing against the can hopefully making for a more permanent bond.

Redundancy wise, in a case of failure. I hope that my used of multiple strips of velcro on the front of the TV combined with the duct tape, will ensure that there’s no SPONTANEOUS LOSS of adhesiveness, should the heat of the TV melt the velcro strip connected to the can I should be able to see it tilt gradually and perform any repairs instead of just watching it crash to the ground.

I hope!

For spatial reference

WP_000010

The space from the TV, to where the white couch is, happens to be JUST THE RIGHT SIZE for 2 players. 1 player is where WZ is sitting.


Gaming | Gear
Saturday, 20 November 2010 23:01:35 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 19 November 2010

Today news broke that you can access your Windows Phone 7’s storage folders from this webpage, most sites referred to this as Portable USB drive access. They also wondered about the usefulness of this USB drive method since even if you COULD copy say… a DOC file into a folder, you couldn’t access it in the Office app on the phone. For that you could use my webserver method.

But I recognized what the folders were (Me and the other 10 people who used a Powered By Windows Media PMP device :P) The folders you see when you browse to the device…

mediafolders

These are the MEDIA FOLDERS, From my experience Windows Media powered PMP would have folders like this and used this structure to hold it’s contents.

So it’s a simple way to move media around, big deal you say. But here’s the thing that interested me the most.

I CAN NOW DIRECTLY COPY VIDEO FILES INTO THE DEVICE.

Remember that you can already copy video files to the device using the Zune application, but unless your file satisfied certain parameters the Zune application will reencode the file to the WMV format before copying it to the device.

But… when you attempt to copy a file into the video folder directly through Explorer you get this dialog instead.

directcopy

So you can choose to drop the file onto the phone WITHOUT ANY REENCODING!

Now that I could copy video files into the phone directly what’s left was to find out what kind of codecs were supported. Microsoft provides a nice little list here. But I’d be lying if I’d say I knew what’s the difference between the various different profiles of MPEG4. ;) Anyway what’s missing on the list is.. AVI file container support.

Quick primer for those of you who are unfamiliar with how video files work. A video file consists of a container which has multiple streams and each stream might contain data using various codecs. A typical AVI file you download off the Internet would be using the AVI container format, and has 2 streams, a video stream using the MPEG4 codec (or more commonly known as XVID), and an audio stream using the MP3 codec.

The problem here is that because Windows Phone 7 doesn’t support reading of AVI containers, it means that we are unable to just drop AVI files onto the phone. Based on my experience and testing when making my Simple Webserver, I know that MP4 Containers ARE supported and usable.

So now we have a problem, we have a container (AVI) which can’t be read by Windows Phone 7 but it contains streams MPEG4 and MP3 which CAN be used by Windows Phone 7. So the question was, how do we get the streams into a MP4 container WITHOUT having to go through any reencoding?

Enter the swiss army knife of video tools : FFMPEG

With FFMPEG it’s easy to copy streams from one container to another, with a simple command line of

ffmpeg –I inputfile.avi –vcodec copy –acodec copy output.mp4

The streams from inputfile.avi will be copied over to output.mp4 WITHOUT wasting time reencoding. Once processed you can then drop the MP4 file onto your phone and hopefully it’ll play properly (Remember, there are various other settings for MPEG4, and the phone doesn’t support all of them)

What’s that you say? You don’t know how to use the command line? How about this then?

m2recontainmp4

It’s a VERY simple frontend to FFMPEG, you click on Pick Source to pick your source file. A quick analysis is done, and the program will tell you the state of the file. The destination file is entered automatically if possible, if not click Pick Destination for the output filename. (Be sure to enter a filename with the MP4 extension) Then click GO to start processing. Once it’s done copy the file over to your phone and try it out.

You can grab the M2RecontainInMP4 Program here. (I packaged the FFMPEG executable with it… I’m pretty sure I violated something in the licensing by doing so)

Things to note :-

  • It’s not a PERFECT process, sometimes some artifacts will appear
  • Renaming and deleting video files in Explorer seems to have WEIRD results, I think it’d be best if you don’t rename files on the device through Explorer. And to delete files, tap and hold on them in the Music & Videos app on your phone.
  • I haven’t gotten a H.264 video codec file to play properly, so.. good luck with the files you have.
  • This is a VERY VERY EASY hole for Microsoft to patch up. Let’s hope they don’t!

Friday, 19 November 2010 00:13:42 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Because my wife was complaining that I got way too many Nerf guns, I promised her that I’ll only get guns that have a different design compared to any one I’ve already owned.

Well… out comes the Nerf Barricade which uses a sort of motorised dart launcher mechanism instead of a traditional pump. So… new mechanism means…

DSC00015

Brand new gun! Yippee!!! One of the main difference is that this gun CANNOT be used without batteries, because unlike the Vulcan there is no manual mechanism to shoot darts with.

All it has is an on/off switch, which uses some very interesting markings instead of the standard on/off marking.

DSC00016

Off is basically indicated by a no shot icon, whereas on is indicated by a burst mode icon.

The 3 AA batteries that power the gun are contained behind this battery door.

DSC00017

The dart chamber is capable of holding 10 rounds.

DSC00018

The firing mechanism is interesting, when a chamber is rotated into firing position the dart is pushed forward into the barrel and…

DSC00020

See the 2 pink gears at the bottom of the barrel, when you turn the gun on they start spinning, and when a dart is pushed into the barrel the gears basically grip the dart and accelerates it out the barrel.

There are 2 interesting things about the gun, the first is that it shoots surprisingly fast, almost as fast as you can pull the trigger. The second is that because the gears are constantly spinning as long as its on, it’s constantly draining power from the batteries… So battery life is suspect for this gun.

It’s a very interesting design, it’s compact, high capacity and high rate of fire is enticing, but the fact remains that it is a potential battery hog.

And here's a video.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010 19:01:22 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 

After using my LG Optimus Windows Phone 7 for a while now I’ve decided to come up with a little FAQ for the upcoming Windows Phone 7 release in Malaysia to help users get up to speed with their new device.

Is Windows Phone released jn Malaysia yet?
(Updated 13th Jan 2011) Windows Phone 7 phones are now available in Malaysia.

Do I need a Windows PC to use the phone?
No, you only need to install the Zune application on your PC if you wish to copy files from the phone to your pc for backup. (This is the only way to backup full sized pictures and video recording from your camera) or if you want to put media onto the phone

Can I use a Mac instead?
A Beta Mac client has been released, I personally am not sure how well it works though.

Is a Windows Live ID required to use the phone?
You don't NEED a Live ID to use the phone, but you do need one to make full use of the phone’s features.

Microsoft's official statement says that Marketplace and xbox live is not supported in Malaysia,how would a user go about getting apps for the phone then?
This is an extremely complicated topic, so complicated that it needs its own post so load this link in a new tab.

Is it TRUE that we can't use our own songs as ringtones?
Not only is that true, the included ringtones are poorly suited for the task of alerting you to pick up the phone. This should be addressed in a future update

So... No copy and paste?
Yup.. Also coming in a later update.

And no multitasking?
Yup, no multitasking right now. The developers will have to pull a few tricks to give you the illusion of multitasking. Sorta like the PalmOS in its early days.

Is the load speed for apps slow?
Depends on a lot of factors, what does the app do on startup? Does if hit the network before showing anything on the screen? Did the device manufacturer use fast storage RAM? Feels quite ok on my LG Optimus, not sure about the rest.

What's this about MicroSD cards being permanently tied to the phone after they are inserted?
As a form of DRM to protect the contents of the phone, and in the best interest of content developers the SD card will actually have its security features activated. Once active not many other devices would know how to deal with it. Therefore right now, after you insert a MicroSD into a Windows Phone 7 device. It’s possible that no other device can use it for now. Here’s a link that points to more info.

What kind of media files are supported?
Through the Zune application, the phone will play MP3, WMA and unprotected AAC. FLAC is not supported, nor is OGG. Videos in supported formats will be transcoded to WMV format to be viewable on the phone.

Update 18th November 2010 : Using the method described in this link you can gain access to the media folders and DIRECTLY copy any supported file into the device bypassing the transcoding process. So far the best format I can get it to play is MP4 container, 720P H.264, AAC audio. With the help of the method in the above link, it is now possible to view XVID files WITHOUT REENCODING using the method which I describe here.

Can I read PDF files?
Yes, there's a basic PDF reader made by Adobe in the marketplace. I call it BASIC since other than the fact that it can read PDF files (quite well actually, handling a 1000+ page book pretty well) it doesn’t have a last read position feature, doesn’t have an insert bookmark feature… heck it doesn’t even have a GO TO PAGE NUMBER X feature, damn that makes it VERY VERY unfeasible to read that 1000+ page book! But then since it’s a program… it can be upgraded

How do I copy files such as PDFs, Word, Excel files to my phone?
Microsoft's recommendations are to mail them to yourself, I figured out a better solution.

How do I copy said files out from the phone then?
Mail them to yourself.... Sorry I don't have a better idea for this one yet.

Can it handle Chinese SMS?
It can receive them just fine, but to send them you'll have to make use of an app called 'Chinese SMS' that's free costs a small sum on the marketplace for now.

Update 18th November 2010 : Program costs money now!

How capable is Internet Explorer on Windows Phone 7?
Yes, Windows Phone 7’s IE doesn’t support HTML5. I’d think most mobile HTML5 sites are mainly catered for the iOS devices anyway. In normal usage IE is quite capable, it has pretty decent Javascript support and can handle normal websites quite well. It’s not perfect but it’s definetly what you can call a modern mobile web browser.

No plugin support then?
Just ask the real question you want to ask!

No Flash support then?
Not yet, Adobe says it’s coming.. But whenever that is… it’s not now.

What’s this WiFi bug that’s been going around?
There’s no way to connect to a non SSID broadcasting WiFi access point in Windows Phone 7. Also, it can only get it’s IP configuration through DHCP so static IP are also a problem.

Is there a Windows Live Messenger app for WP7?
There is one in the Marketplace right now, but it’s not an official one by Microsoft. And based on all the bad reviews the app is getting, seems like it doesn’t work too well. But… there is a way to get a… sort of Live Messenger app if you really need to chat with someone. Browse to http://mim.live.com on your Windows Phone 7 device and you’ll gain access to the Mobile Web version of Live Messenger, which works pretty well even if you might have to end up refreshing the page manually to see if new chats come in.

Can Windows Phone 7 replace my GPS? (25th Nov 2010)
The Maps application included in the phone doesn’t work that well here in Malaysia yet so the answer is NO. But check out the details here.

Can I sync my stuff from Outlook to the phone? (Updated 8th Jan 2011)
The answer to the question is both YES and NO, while you CAN get information from Outlook to your phone. It's not as straight forward as with Active Sync previously and also right now there's no way to sync Tasks and ToDo items. For more details check out this KB Article. Important Note (8th Jan 2011) : There seems to be a bug where editing a contact information in Outlook… makes you appear offline to that contact if it's an IM user, I have no idea why this is happening, but you need to be mindful of this.

I Keep Accidentally Hitting The Windows Or Search Buttons And Losing Everything I Was Working On (3rd March 2011)
The scenario is this, you're playing Puzzle Quest 2 on your HD7 and then your thumb accidentally swipes pass the Windows button and the game goes away as the Start screen shows up and you lose your game progress, damn those capacitive buttons! What happen was that the absence of traditional multitasking, and the app's developer not being able to handle Windows Phone 7 tombstoning effectively would have caused the app to lose whatever it is you were working on.

This is especially problematic on devices that don't have PHYSICAL buttons cause it's so easy to accidentally press capacitive buttons. What I just found out is that if you quickly press BACK after hitting the Windows or Search buttons there's a chance that you can get back to the app BEFORE the OS kills it. Keyword here is QUICKLY, you have to be fast about it! It might not always work, but if something good to know.

That’s what I have right now, feel free to post any new questions for me to add to this list.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010 11:57:11 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [4]  |