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Archive for February, 2011

Run for Autism

POSTED BY Luigi Violin ON

Once in a while you happen to find good friends over the Internet. In one occasion in your life you may find a person that lives far, far away from you and see him/her become one of your best friends. I’ve been lucky enough to see that happening to me just a few years ago.

I’ve never met Dave in person, but that’s the plan as soon as I’ll have the chance to visit USA. We used to chat over email and MSN pretty much 24/7, and worked together on various community projects and websites, mostly related to the Xbox Community. I regret those times are gone.

And I regret that I’ve only recently found out about something that Dave and his family are going through, which leads us to this post: he will be running his first half-marathon in a few weeks, and he decided to make it even more memorable by raising funds for OAR. In his own words:

…autism now affects 1 in 110 children. 1 in 70 of those children are boys, and one of those boys is my son. He was diagnosed with autism last year which is one reason this cause means so much to me. There is no known cure or even known causes of the disorder, hopefully with the research that is funded by our donations we will continue to learn about this disorder…

So please follow this link and DO donate now.

WP7 – the best of MWC11

POSTED BY Luigi Violin ON

The Mobile World Congress held in Barcellona just a few days ago brought lots of interesting news for Windows Phone 7 users and developers. According to Microsoft, 9 customers out of 10 would recommend WP7 to their friends: I’m definitely one of those 9, and I’m glad that Windows Phone is having the success it deserves.

Microsoft discussed the first two major updates coming for the WP7 platform: you may have heard about them as “Nodo” and “Mango“. “Nodo” is almost here (expected in March 2011), and it will bring copy-and-paste functionality to the device (hurray!), as well as some bug fixes. “Mango” will bring the most interesting (and NEW) features on board and it will come “in the second half of 2011″.

Included in Mango, there will most likely be Twitter integration in the phone’s People Hub, support for Office documents in the cloud (free SkyDrive storage), multitasking (or fast app switching?), and my personal favorite: Internet Explorer 9 Mobile.

I love programming and I put my hands on a lot of programming languages and environments, but Web Development will always be my favorite. The current version of IE Mobile works pretty good, it’s quick enough, and pretty friendly from a developer point of view, but IE9 will really bring a revolution on the device, as well as a whole new concept of web design. Really, I can’t wait for it and – trust me – non-developers should do the same.

The IE Mobile team recently said that they

…worked closely with the IE9 team to ensure that mobile Web developers can take advantage of the same benefits that IE9 brings to the desktop…

This means that it will all be there: hardware acceleration for graphics and video, CSS3, Geolocation, DOM Storage, SVG etc etc.. If the list doesn’t tell you anything, just let me say – as a Web Developer – that this will open up LOTS of new possibilities, and will let us users experience the Web on mobile devices like never before. M’kay? Just wait and see. ;)

Why WP7applist?

POSTED BY Luigi Violin ON

I bought my LG Optimus 7 as soon as it was available in stores in my country, and literally couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I’ve been a fan of Windows-powered mobile devices ever since I got a Dell Axim X5 back in 2002, but at the time I had an iPhone 3GS and I was pretty happy with it, so I really didn’t know which phone I would be carrying in my pocket the day after. Needless to say, I immediately feel in love with Windows Phone 7.

As I had used both an iPhone and an Android powered phone, I knew the importance of an ‘App Store’. Really, it’s the best thing that happened to mobile devices EVER, in my eyes. Thousands of developers countributing to a platform growth, and at the same time making some money with their apps, if not a living. I knew that the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace should have become a HUGE deal in order to contribute to the platform sucess.

And there it was in all of its glory: the first few apps were available for free downloading and/or purchasing, the growing croud of independent developers were all excited to start distributing their apps worldwide but.. wait, where am I supposed to get info about the apps and the Marketplace if I don’t have the Zune software installed, if I am on my Macbook, at an Internate CafĂ©, or at work? That’s right, pretty much nowhere. Could this really have been overlooked? Either way, I wanted a quick way for me to keep an eye on new apps releases, grab some info about the latest app I heard about, look up some app I wanted on my device, keep an eye on the Marketplace growth, etc.. These info were nowhere to be found, but they were surely lying somewhere.. ;)

That’s when the first prototype of what I call ‘the WP7 watcher’ was born: a few lines of code gave me all the info I was looking for at any time. But why would I have to keep that for myself?

So a tiny website came to life soon after, and the best thing about it was that almost everyone with a WP7 device seemed to like the idea, and find a reason to visit again. I’m pretty used to building websites for a ‘community’, most likely in exchange for nothing, expecially if the website subject is one of my passions. Luckily (for me!) that was the case, as in a few weeks WP7applist.com became the most successful fansite I built to date: it is now, according to Alexa.com, among the 100K most popular websites in the world (and 6K in my own country, Italy).

As you can see, it went very well beyond my best expectations, and what’s even better is that it still seems to grow in popularity day after day. It requires a lot of work, in terms of mantainance and developement of new features, but trust me.. it’s well worth it. One of the things I like the most is that I can actually help indie developers (like I am, even if I don’t have an app ready for the Marketplace yet) stand out from the crowd, gain some more exposure for their great apps.. and do my best to possibly help the Marketplace itself grow in popularity.

Also, this is the first website of mine that pays for itself with ads, which doesn’t hurt seen as running a popular website and keeping it alive really requires a lot of time, effort, an – in a real world – money. So let me say thank you to everyone for the support: as long as I keep on receiving such great feedback via email, WP7applist is all over the web thanks to dedicated news portals, Facebook and Twitter, and as long as someone from Microsoft itself spends a minute of their time to congratulate for my work.. WP7applist is definitely having long life :)

Type faster on WP7

POSTED BY Luigi Violin ON

One of the best features of iPhone, was – in my opinion – the awesome on-screen keyboard. Before that, I’ve never been a fan of bulky devices, but having a hardware keyboard really made a huge difference in my experience. Windows Phone 7 offers nothing less than iPhone in terms of soft-keyboard awesomeness, but some features are kinda hidden.. until you find them!

So here’s a short list of life-saver that worked for me, hopefully they will work for some of you too:

  • the phone suggests words as you type, what may not be very obvious is that if a word shows in bold, the phone is gonna replace the typed word automatically; tap near it if you don’t want that to happen. If there are – instead – no words in bold, you can tap on one of the suggestions to replace the word you’re typing. Likewise, you can tap on a word in your text to bring up suggestions for it;
  • you can type in multiple languages and easily switch between them. First of all, go to settings / keyboard to see the current keyboard language(s). Tap on it to bring up a list with checkboxes, and choose ALL the languages you plan to use. Next time you open the keyboard, you’ll have an addition button near the spacebar: tap on it to cycle languages, or hold it to bring up the full list. A new icon on the top-bar will tell you the language currently in use;
  • when you’re typing and need to place the cursor on a particular spot (eg: in the middle of a word), press and hold the screen to reveal a much larger cursor just above your finger. Drag the finger to move it around with great precision.

If you have similar tips to share, please do so in the comments. Does WP7 soft-keyboard work good enough for you?

Hello world! It’s me again.

POSTED BY Luigi Violin ON

I really have lost count of how many times I wrote a “Hello world” blogpost here on ZaamIT.com, but yeah.. here we are again. And – for those interested – let me spend a couple minutes to explain what is going on.

Those who know me, also know that I’m a geek, and that I love it. I have some very strong passions in life: my girfriend, programming, Xbox, mobile devices, and.. my girlfriend. Putting it all together, when I’m not with my girfriend I’m most likely trying to build something cool and new for the Xbox Community, or collaborating with awesome people and websites doing the very same thing.

The problem with this approach is that “you can’t be everywhere at once, and you can’t do everything“. I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing that I’ve learned that on my own, but that’s the way it is. The point is that – as long as you do all this for passion, and passion alone – once in a while, you gotta put something on hold, abandon a cool project/idea, and focus on those that intrigue you the most, or capture people’s interest the most.

As a consequence of this, ZaamIT.com is the first website of mine that will be changing a lot, and if you are reading this you may have noticed already. First and foremost, the website is now based on wordpress and it’s actually going to be my very own blog (like it was ment to be when I first registered this Internet domain). Some tools/services may be put on hold, while others will stay. I’m making decisions based on the interest I’ve seen in the last few months towards the various areas of the website, but they are NOT final. We will see how it goes :)

There’s so much more going on, and so much more to say, but that’s it for now. Feel free to sign up to the new site and do visit once in a while if you’re interested in knowing something behind the scenes of my current and future projects, my everyday “job”, and my passions. I can’t promise that I’ll be able to entertain you, but hey I’m so glad that I have my personal blog back.