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3 years ago

Microsoft's 'Project Emporia' news reader hits v1.2

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Microsoft's experimental news feed program, called Project Emporia, just received a nice upgrade to version 1.2--it's first update in three months. Hailing from Microsoft's Research FUSE labs, this is one of those apps where you are helping Microsoft "test" some new ideas out.

In essence, it's a news reader with the ability to choose by category e.g. technology, politics, etc. But then you can vote up or down stories to better refine your likes, giving you a more tailored user experience:

Every day we face an information overflow; data is coming at us through so many channels that it is difficult to weed out the gems that are important to us from all the noise. For those who are not social media mavens, the whole problem can be intimidating.

Project Emporia offers a solution to this. It sifts through ever-evolving news streams to identify hot news stories, categorizes them into topic areas and ranks them, and then presents them to you in a friendly and easy-to-use UI. With Project Emporia you get relevant stories on topics of YOUR choice.

You can influence how future stories are chosen for you, one vote at a time. Your votes will improve the relevance of your news story choices not just for you, but for every other user as well.

Previous versions were "meh", often being slow and not that fun. Version 1.2 though makes the app much better, in our opinion, since it's now more zippy, has more options available and is basically fun to experiment with. Here are some of the major 1.2 new features:

  • Unified Web and WP7 accounts
  • Facebook and Twitter integration
  • Improved sharing via Twitter
  • Social channels

You can grab Projecct Emporia right here in the Marketplace.

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3 years ago

TouchStudio Updated to 1.1

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We recently covered Microsoft's incredibly entertaining Touch Studio for Windows Phone 7, which allows one to create scripts that take advantage of the API's and access available on the OS and hardware. The app has now been updated to 1.1 (beta). The changes are listed below:

  • Many bug fixes
  • Better auto-completion in expression editor
  • Access to accelerometer, location, maps, translation services, web search, tile customization, charting, and more.
  • Take screenshots of your actions (if you want to show other people your code), and the execution wall; look for the "send screenshot to library" button under the “…” in the application bar.
  • API changes (see below). If you update an existing installation, all your existing scripts get renamed to "v1.0 ...". Since we changed APIs, your old scripts might have errors which you have to edit and fix yourself.

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3 years ago

Windows Phone Ad Network Options

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Ad based app or paid app? That is the question many developers have faced. Do I charge a one time cost for my app or do I hope the user run the app with enough frequency to generate a decent level of ad revenue?

Windows Phone ads pay by impression in that you don't have to click on the ad banner for the developer to receive credit/revenue from that view.  The downside is that not everyone likes to see that ad banner regardless of how discrete they are placed.  If you choose the ad supported option, there are a few options available and Improvisoft has compiled a listing of their favorites along with rankings (in Jewels).

  • Millennial Media SDK (0/5 Jewels): While the API was highly customizable, the SDK proved to be unstable. Shutter animation would be closed more times than not, obscuring the ads. "Millenial had a lot of promise. This company has a good website and SDKs for 10 platforms including well-known 4.2.X versions for Android and iPhone. But it didn’t take long to realize that there is little delivery on that promise..."
  • AdDuplex SDK - version 1.1 Beta (3/5 Jewels): Described as a simple SDK with minimal documentation and a minimal API, it may be too minimal for some. Improvisoft notes that AdDuplex works, but there is room for improvement ranging from better ad appearance to better SDK documentation.  To give AdDuplex a little credit, it is still a Beta and these improvements may be in the works.
  • Smaato SDK v1.2 (2/5 Jewels): Smaato serves advertisements to over 220 countries. With no other functional ad-network for WP7 XNA games providing ads outside the US, that's a strength you have to recognize. Otherwise, Smaato is described as being the ugliest ad-network the reviewer has seen for Windows Phone.
  • Microsoft Advertising pubCenter SDK v5.1.0.166 (3.5/5 Jewels): Described as the best ad network for displaying ads on U.S. based Windows Phones, pubCenter does have some limitations. PubCenter is U.S. based only, the number of advertisers are fewer (more repeat ads), and while ads can be text or graphical they are not rich-media capable or to the size requested.

The skinny of it is that not every ad network is perfect and it seems that there isn't a "one size fits all" solution. Some may provide better coverage, cleaner appearance or simply easier to manage.

So...for the developers in the crowd what ad network do you find works best? Or do you prefer to avoid ad supported apps all together.

Source: Improvisoft

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3 years ago

Deutsche Telekom reportedly pushing NoDo today for HTC Mozart

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For those with the super sleek and snazzy HTC Mozart, we getting word that Deutsche Telekom has finally starting pushing the long sought NoDo update for that phone today. Originally scheduled for "end of April" we'll give a "close enough!" pass to DT here.

No more info at this time as far as firmware changes, but HTC almost always includes some under-the-hood changes e.g. the driver required for the hidden WiFi app.

No word on the Omnia's update getting pushed out but we think it's just a matter of time.  Anyone else can confirm their update in comments? Go ahead..

Thanks, Fisi_zubi, for the tip

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3 years ago

iPhone apps not so unique: Android, Windows Phone catch up to iOS offerings

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Although boasting about the size of one's app store has its place--really it's the quality of the apps that matter and nothing beats those "big titles" that people want and use.

PCWorld has done an interesting analysis of Apple's top 35 apps to see how the other platforms compare. Android, comes the closest, offering all but 3 of the top 35 apps on the iPhone. Their biggest gap of course is in games--something we've pointed out before. Next, however is Windows Phone 7 which offers all but 8 of the top 35--beating out Symbian and Blackberry (guess WebOS wasn't worth looking at). That's not too shabby for the new guy in town who's been in the market a little less than seven months.

Part of the difference is Microsoft has been very aggressive in courting Apple developers to either switch or port over their apps, often offering financial incentive to do so e.g. covering the cost of development. Combined with the Xbox LIVE gaming system and their relationship with the "big" developers there, Microsoft has made tremendous in-roads into taking away any "exclusive" app that the iPhone may offer (and more often than not, the Windows Phone version looks better).

We may not have the numbers, but we have the apps.

Related story: Beating Apple's exclusivity: How Microsoft caters to developers while Google does not

Source: PCWorld/Yahoo News; Thanks, hd7guy, for the heads up

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3 years ago

Square Off - Review

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Square Off - Review

Given that both Xbox Live Indie Games on Xbox 360 and games on Windows Phone use the XNA development environment, it’s surprising how few indie games have made the jump from Xbox 360 to Windows Phone so far. Twin Blades is the earliest game to have made the transition (becoming an Xbox Live title, no less). Indie gaming fans sick of puzzle games now have a more hardcore game to play: Square Off, courtesy of Australian developer Gnomic Studios.

Square Off’s story, told through a series of full screen stills in the intro and ending, involves a prolonged alien invasion of the earth. Humanity is unable to defeat the aliens for some reason, so a mad scientist comes up with a plan. He splices alien DNA with his own brain cells, creating a team of Square Avengers. These little guys strap on jet-packs, grab some guns, and head out to save the planet.

While the silly story sets the stage, Square Off is really just about shooting a bunch of aliens. The game consists of seven levels: the first three have four regular waves followed by a boss wave, while the final level contains two waves and a big boss wave. In normal waves, a group of UFOs act as enemy generators. They spawn numerous smaller enemies and must be dealt with before the bad guys overwhelm you with numbers. Helpful color coded arrows indicate the location of off-screen enemies and UFOs. Finish everybody off and it’s on to the next wave.

Rocket past the break for our full review.

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3 years ago

Pitfall! - Review

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Pitfall! - Review

Many younger gamers’ first exposure to Pitfall! came from the console title Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which featured a Pitfall! minigame. But Pitfall! started its life way back in 1982 on the Atari 2600. The product of a single Activision developer, David Crane, it sold over 4 million copies and skyrocketed Activision to stardom. Now developer Krome and publisher Microsoft Game Studios bring the ‘Fall! To Windows Phone as both an Xbox Live and Game Room title. Is it better suited to mobile play than cranky ol’ Asteroids Deluxe? Yes!

Pitfall! stars the adventurer Pitfall Harry. His sprite was comprised of four separate colors on a platform in which most sprites were made of only one or two colors. Harry’s surplus of colors produced such a realistic effect at the time that many people thought an actual human being had somehow become trapped in their game cartridge. Thanks to modern computer technology we now know that this was not the case, but Harry still retains a certain visual charm after all these years.

Grab onto a vine and swing past the jump for our full review!

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3 years ago

Verizon Trophy shows up in their online smartphone guide

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As if there was any doubt left: the Verizon Trophy is near ready to launch, it's really happening.

First Best Buy, then the forums, then employee training, then a potential release date (May 12th) and now the phone has showed up on Verizon's interactive "online smartphone guide" in it's full glory.

Although they have yet to officially announce the device, this is pretty close to it and shows that this phone is finally on the cusp of release. So we can now say: yes, get excited, this looks real this time.

Source: Verizon; via Drewkkake; Thanks, Grubish360, for the heads up!

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3 years ago

Windows Phone vs iPhone 4 Task Speed Test [Video]

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The above video shows a task speed test between the iPhone and a Windows Phone 7 device (Samsung Focus), which included the following steps:

  1. Take a Picture
  2. Upload Picture to Facebook with Caption ("Check out my new hat!")
  3. Update Status ("I love weekends!")
  4. Find Directions to a Restaurant (Olive Garden)
  5. Get Movie Times ("Fast Five")
Unfortunately for our iOS friends, WP7 comes out tops due to it's simplicity and superb social integration. Does this remind everyone of the previous comparison adverts Microsoft released

Thanks James for the tip!

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3 years ago

Sony Ericsson Xperia Concept Running WP7

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Victor Cao, an artist from Vietnam, has created some concept designs for a Sony device running what appears to be a vision of Windows Phone 8. What's eye-popping about the design? The specifications of course, unfortunately we still can't wireless synchronise with microwaves and ovens but the proposed 1080p screen with a 12MP camera coupled with HD video capturing would be pretty nice.

Only issue I have with it is the UI, it's taken the simplicity of Metro and thrown in some gradients with glass effects. While I think the device looks promising (and the specification is on par with advancements), the prediction of WP8 looking as it does in the designs isn't my cup of tea. Check out some more images after the break.

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3 years ago

Shut The Box - App Spotlight

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Shut The Box - App Spotlight

Looking for an interesting game for your Windows Phone? Shut The Box is being offered over at the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace that is an Old English puzzle game.  It's a simple, yet challenging game.

You have your box, a pair of dice, and tiles (or shutters) numbered one through nine. The object of the game is to turn down all the tiles. You do so by rolling the dice and turning down the corresponding tiles that equal the sum of each roll. When you roll the dice with a sum that won't drop any tiles, game over.

It's a simple game that has a Yahtzee feel to it. Shut the Box has fantastic graphics and is an enjoyable way to pass the time with. Shut The Box also includes a statistics page so you can evaluate your performance and a settings page that includes a Move Hints settings. This is a good feature to help you learn the game strategy.

There is no trial version for Shut The Box and the full version will run you $.99. You can purchase the game here (opens Zune) at the Marketplace.

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3 years ago

Monkey Madness - App Spotlight

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Monkey Madness - App Spotlight

Phoebit Software is offering Monkey Madness over at the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. The platformer game has you controlling your monkey with the phone's accelerometer. You work your way through a moving maze/ladder to reach the top of the screen. Jumping is controlled by tapping the screen to leap through openings in the walkways or rungs in the ladder.

Along your journey you try to collect bonus items and avoid dangers such as snakes and ghosts. If one of the monsters catch you, you will loose one of your three lives. You also need to be careful not to bump your head on the walkway above or fall through the gaps in the moving rungs. You won't loose a life but your monkey will be stunned for a short period.

Monkey Madness has an online leader board to compare your scores with others. As you advance in levels, the game becomes more challenging and you really need to stay on your toes as the direction of the rungs will change.

There is a free trial version available for Monkey Madness with the full version running $.99. You can download either here (opens Zune) at the Marketplace.

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3 years ago

There Yet? - App Spotlight

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There Yet? - App Spotlight

Need to take a nap on the morning train commute? Car pool and want to doze off? Tempted but don't want to miss your stop?

Earthware Limited has released the Windows Phone 7 app, There Yet? to help with such dilemmas. The app uses Bing Maps to set geo-location alarms that will sound as you approach your destination.

In briefly testing out There Yet?, the only glitches I experienced was that at times it had difficulty acquiring my location and at times I wasn't sure if my destination was set.  Giving the app the benefit of the doubt, the location issues could easily be an issue with the area and not with the application itself.  While the app isn't too difficult to navigate around, a Help Section would be a nice addition to shorten the learning curve.

There isn't a trial version of There Yet? and the full version will run $.99. You can download your copy here (opens Zune) at the Marketplace.

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3 years ago

100 Top World Wonders - App Spotlight

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100 Top World Wonders - App Spotlight

Ever wonder what's the world's largest volcano on earth is? How about the largest cathedral in the world?  Well, XIMAD has brought 100 Top Worlds Wonders to the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace to help answer those and other questions about the wonders of the world.

From the Taj Mahal to the Great Barrier Reef, from the Grand Canyon to the Philippines' Chocolate Hills the 100 Top Wonders combines stunning photographs with quick facts on each wonder.  Each Wonder can be starred as a favorite for quick reference as well as shared through your Windows Phone email clients.  The app also has a keyword search function.

100 Top World Wonders comes in two varieties. There is a free, ad supported version here (opens Zune) and a paid, non-ad version (runs $1.29) here at the Marketplace.

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