api

Developer Jimmy Engströ​m has managed to build an API to control a Silverlit (www.silverlit.com) remote control car. Using Bluetooth, the Windows Phone is able to control the toy just like any supported controller. It's pretty neat, but of course not really useful for the average consumer (unless you happen to have a Bluetooth controlled car stored away somewhere).

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Microsoft guru Paul Thurrott is reporting on some new information regarding the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update aka ‘Blue’. He notes that the info comes from a single source, though he has confidence in the information revealed.

What’s discussed isn’t so much the superficial UI changes or new features but rather core user experience deviations that should cause a stir amongst the Windows Phone faithful.

We won’t recapitulate all of Thurrott’s revelations, but we will highlight a few of the more interesting ones.

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Instagram has evidently made one more change, hopefully the last, to their API for publishing photos to the service. We can now confirm that users can upload to the network using third party apps like Instance, and that those photos are public (unlike the last change). That’s an improvement from yesterday, where posting was blocked only to return later, but with photos marked as ‘private’.

At this point, it is unclear if Instagram is reversing course out of good will or if this was part of their plan, with the side effect of monkeying with third-party apps. Regardless, if you have Instance on your Windows Phone, you should be able to directly post without any compromises. No telling how long that will last though.

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Instagram has reportedly altered their security measures one more time today as users are now reporting that posts are sticking via third-party Windows Phone app Instance. Indeed, we can confirm via our own account that the third party app is working, but there is a catch: images are posted as private and not public.

Why the sudden change? We have no idea, though possibly there was some bad PR that Instagram was facing with the earlier move, which is said to have not been deliberately targeting third party apps. Of course, this has been a wild saga over the last 24 hours and for all we know, Instagram may make some API changes yet again to re-start the problem. Your guess is as good as ours. 

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In a world where Google is king, Bing is beginning to spread. The service’s take over on iOS devices as Siri’s new backend search engine is a large step forward for the company, but Microsoft isn’t done there. Yesterday at Build 2013, the company announced that they would be opening a large number of new APIs and controls to developers.

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This one has been brewing for a while and it seems that the rhetoric is now stepping up as Microsoft and Google prepare to do battle. The stage has been set and much of the coming drama will focus on Windows Phone.

Microsoft has today written publically about Google’s direct refusal to open up YouTube access so that Windows Phone users can easily use the service when mobile, something we first reported back in March 2011. The plot thickens when we learn that Microsoft has a high quality YouTube app ready to release. Don’t be evil, read on past the break to find out more.

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We mentioned Tweetro recently when we interviewed developer house LazyWorm Apps who are also behind the Windows Phone app MetroTube. The Twitter client is meant for Windows 8 and runs quite well on RT devices like the Surface. Unfortunately, it has also stopped working.

That’s not the fault of the developers though but rather due to in part to two reasons (1) it’s very popular (as is the OS) and (2) Twitter has a 100K token cap.  Long story short, Twitter implemented new changes to how their API is used for third-party apps and it's causing problems--if an app goes over that "token limit", they get shut down and stop working.

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Twitter has announced some sweeping changes to their all-important application programming interface or just API. This API is essential plumbing to allow application developers access to the “fire hose” of data from twitter. It has been no secret that Twitter wish to tighten their grip ever more over whom can access their system. With their latest set of guidelines, they show they mean business.

As Windows Phone users, we are literally spoilt for choice when it comes to third party twitter apps, with the likes of Rowi, Carbon, glƏƏk!, Mehdoh and Birdsong (to name drop a few). The new API could mean real headaches for those trying to differentiate with their Twitter client...

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The new SkyDrive login screen

Two weeks ago Hotmail became Outlook.com with a new Metro…errr..modern look to it and now it is finally time for SkyDrive to get the same makeover.

Heading to www.skydrive.com you can see the new site redesign (log out and refresh if you are not seeing it) that brings it up to par with the Windows 8, Windows Phone and Outlook’s new appearance. And yes, Microsoft is not calling it Metro but rather are using ‘modern’ instead—take that as you will.

Besides the new look, SkyDrive also gets some new features on board including instant search, contextual toolbar, thumbnail multi-select, drag-and-drop organization, and HTML5 sorting which should make the service is more fun to use.

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In what should be a very exciting addition for developers, Windows Phone 8 will finally give access to Voice Command (aka TellMe).

According to the leaked Windows Phone 8 SDK, developers can add functions to their app that uses the Voice Command feature, enabling customers to launch the app with a sub-query which will take them to a specific area of the app:

"Users can use voice commands to both launch your app and execute an action. For example, a user using the Contoso Widgets app could press the Start button and say "Contoso Widgets, show best sellers" to both launch the Contoso Widgets app and navigate to a 'best sellers' page, or some other action that the developer specifies."

(An example of this would be Jay Bennett adding a feature to our WPCentral app whereby you hold the Start button to access Voice Command (TellMe) and say “WPCentral, go to reviews”).

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The Windows Phone 8 SDK Preview has been leaked on the Internet today before being released in the coming weeks. What's included in the upcoming version? 

App Development

Windows Phone 8 Developer Preview supports native C++ development and is able to support a significant subset of the Windows 8 SDK, allowing developers to share a significant amount of code between apps on Windows Phone and Window 8. The lack of native development support in Windows Phone 7.x has proven to be an issue with developers in the past, which has now been recognised by Microsoft.

The SDK Preview reduces the need to port and maintain components such as compute engines, graphic libraries, and API sets. Direct3D is also making its way to Windows Phone, which will enable developers to create and release games built using DirectX and share code base between PC titles (D2D, DWrite and WIC aren't supported). The supported vertex shader model version is 2.0, as is the pixel shader.

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As we parse our way through the new Windows Phone 8 SDK which was leaked this morning, we’re starting to get an idea of some of the new features.

One of those is Camera Lenses, a method by which developers can add a “mini app” of sorts to within in the camera function. This will allow devs to have much more creative control over the Windows Phone camera app, allowing the creation of unique augmented reality apps and filters to really add a customized experience.

Head past the break to read the excerpts from the SDK…

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Backing up app data on SkyDrive--not cool with Microsoft?

An interesting controversy spring up over at the AppHub forums over the use of SkyDrive for backing up app data—not so much photos and documents (which is fine) but rather unintelligible files created by apps for app-specific data.

The crux of it was someone from the SkyDrive team made a comment that using SkyDrive for such a purpose goes against the user agreement for the API and it could result in the Windows Phone app being yanked from the Marketplace.

Justin Angel, Principal Engineer for Windows Phone experience at Nokia, fervently objected to this idea noting

“As SkyDrive API usage is not part of the Application Certification Guidelines I resent that team threatening app developers with expulsion from the marketplace for misuse of their API.”

It’s certainly a good point although we see the reasoning behind the SkyDrive team’s position. Luckily things are not as dire as expected.

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We received a few reports from users that the excellent reminder + scheduling apps TVShow and PrimeTV are both "broken" right now. Specifically, when users try to update the app to pull down their customized TV schedules, they are met with an error message that they cannot connect to the servers.

We reached to TVShow's developer Rudy Huyn about the matter and we were given a simple explanation. In short, both apps use the site TVRage for their information and that API is currently undergoing maintenance

There's no word on when it will be back but rest assured it should return. Until then, there's not much it seems either developer can do until TVRage flips the switch again.

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If you're a Windows Phone 7 developer, you would probably have heard us talk about this Kirkland, Wash. startup. To recap, it was founded by David McLauchlan (CEO), and Jeff MacDuff (CTO). Both are former Microsoft employees with Dave doing work on the Zune hardware business amongst others, and Jeff working on a range of products including that Windows Phone 7 you're clutching.

Although the platform has been out since last year, up until now it has been in beta. But today they have finally hit v1, along with a bunch of exciting announcements.

So what's new? Well, in addition to the info in the quote below, Buddy has now got support for the Aviary image filters - which has recently been included in Rowi. Along with that, there is now a native .NET SDK which makes it absolutely painless to use the platform in your own app, plus is the first SDK that supports Windows 8! I have personally used the SDK in a Windows 8 app, and it was simpler than the time I stole candy from a baby (I didn't really, promise). The SDK also successfully passes the Windows App Certification Kit (WACK), which is required to publish apps into the Store, and is failed by pretty much every other 3'rd party library due to broken dependencies.

We know what you're thinking though...what good is a press release without an infographic? So we have two, just for you (and the thousands of others like you)...

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Readers alerted us to the disappearance of Pinsation, a third-party Windows Phone Pinterest app, from the Marketplace. While it has almost become the norm for apps to mysteriously vanish from public view without explanation, it was odd to see such a well received app disappear when apps with familiar functionality remain.

We contacted the developer of Pinsation, Daniel Gary, for any details surrounding the disappearance and were told something that sounded awfully similar to issues we've covered previously. According to Gary, Pinterest has locked down their API to prevent access from third-party apps on any platform other than iOS.

There problem occurs when you try to login to the service using Facebook or Twitter. In short, you'll receive and authentication error telling that there was an issue logging you in. The app spits you back to browsing the Pinterest site but you are unable to do so logged into an account (we imagine authenticated accounts, done by invite only, may still work).

Gary also mentioned that developers are working together to try and find a solution to this issue. For the time being you may encounter problems when attempting to use Pinterest apps on Windows Phone (or other platforms).

We'll keep you guys up-to-date with any further information we receive / find out.

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Do you use MetroRadio and/or RadioControlled for your Pandora interaction on Windows Phone? Then you may (or may not) have noticed that those apps have stopped working...again.

Reason? Simple, really. These apps use undocumented APIs to access the Pandora service. Pandora, for whatever reason, changes them on occasion breaking app functionality. Are they doing it on purpose to disrupt these apps? Who knows, maybe or maybe not. What we do know is that it means you'll have to wait till both developers update their apps to fix it and from what we've heard, both devs are hard at work on fixing it.

Until then, MetroRadio is "hidden" from the Marketplace and RadioControlled has submitted their fix (and "future proofed" it against this type of situation occurs again).  Stay tuned though, we'll give you a tour of the new working Radio Controlled soon enough.

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Something's amiss about Twitter...

Consider this a public announcement fellow Windows Phone users, you might notice some strange behaviour in several of your favourite Twitter-enabled apps, ours included.

We kept an eye on this story yesterday when we were alerted by Chris Field (the mind behind MehDoh) that he was spotting errors being returned by the Hammock library (a popular .NET library used for accessing RESTful web services). Specifically, it appears that Twitter have changed their API slightly, or introduced a small bug, which is causing errors when users try and log in to Twitter within third party apps.

The issue is not affecting everyone. In fact I can authorise all my Twitter apps and use all tweeting, replying and retweeting functionality, however I've also seen users of our v2.0 app beta sending me bug reports that are caused by this issue. If it happens to you, try again, it might authorise second time around.

Jump past the break if you want to know more...

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