Developer Interview: James Mundy of Travelnapp

This week James Mundy is our Windows Phone developer interviewee. Being the brains (and brawn) behind Travelnapp, he has allowed WP7 commuters to take a break from busy city life and zone out to their imaginary realm without missing their train stop. As well as travelling on rails, the app works for just about anything, travelling by car, bus or even walking (if you somehow manage to sleepwalk).

Check out the interview after the break.

Tell us about yourself, what you do, background around programming etc.

I am currently a Physics student at Sheffield University and it was on this course (just a couple of months ago in fact) that I did a module on programming in C. From this, my very first introduction to programming, I was hooked and relished the challenges and opportunities it presented. I spent a great deal of my time from then on learning C#, Silverlight and then Windows Phone from books during my spare time. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to use my creativity - which I didn’t get to use much, if at all, doing Physics!

My experiences of programming and Windows Phone development have since led me to change courses to Software Development which I will begin next year.

What path(s) led you to develop for Windows Phone?

The main reason I was attracted to Windows Phone rather than other mobile platforms was the Microsoft DreamSpark program. Through DreamSpark any student can register and receive free copies of tonnes of Microsoft software. During the development of my app I saved at least £1000 with free copies of Visual Studio Professional and Expression Studio Ultimate!

Besides being free, Microsoft have put a lot into building a large and dedicated community of developers. There are tonnes of learning materials online as well as plenty of really high quality books. I also attended a Windows Phone 7 workshop run by APPA Mundi and Microsoft, and as a result learnt a hell of a lot, met loads of devs and got a free developer phone to create my apps on!

Why do you continue to develop for Windows Phone?

I am continuing to develop for Windows Phone for much the same reasons as above. The community is really fantastic – there’s always someone to help out if you have a problem that you are stuck on. There is also the Windows Phone User Group (WPUG) based in London which meets every month and is a fantastic place to meet, discuss and share apps with other devs! I am yet to hear of any bad experiences anyone has had with Windows Phone development.

Do you develop for other platforms? If so, how does your Windows Phone experience compare?

I have plans to develop for other mobile platforms in the future, but currently I’m solely concentrating on developing some great apps for Windows Phone. While the marketplace is still young it’s an ideal time for devs to make a name for themselves!

What made you plan out Travelnapp and did you come across any obstacles through development?

I actually came up with the idea for Travelnapp at least 10 years ago when I was trying to think of ways to stop my dad falling asleep on the train after work. Back then, when a Nokia 3310 was the smartest a phone got, I thought of maybe using an MP3 player but as I had no experience with product design/electronics I forgot all about it. When I began Windows Phone development it seemed like the perfect opportunity to turn my idea into a product – very exciting!

As I was a complete beginner, there were a number of obstacles I encountered throughout development – none that went unsolved thankfully (much credit to the community there!). I did have a great deal of problems with tombstoning but thanks to Mike Ormond from Microsoft I was able to sort this out – lesson learnt: don’t just copy code from the internet even if you think you know what it does!

What developer-orientated features introduced in Mango are your favourites?

I’m really excited by the new emulator which is really useful, and also the new API’s opened up to developers. Looking forward to using these API’s in some cool app ideas I have.

Where do you see Windows Phone development going in the future and do you have plans for future projects?

I think development can only get better for Windows Phone and some of the opportunists that Microsoft have planned for developers sound fantastic. I have plenty (in fact several pages) of app ideas from which there are hopefully a couple I’ll make successfully. As time goes on I hope to make them bigger and more ambitious so who knows what lies next.

Given the opportunity, what’s the one thing you’d change about the Windows Phone development process?

Microsoft are improving the app submission process day by day but I’d still like to see it improve more and get some issues ironed out. Besides that, I appreciate the amount of effort Microsoft and Brandon Watson have put into making Windows Phone 7 dev as great as possible.

Thank you so much for your time. Any parting thoughts for the Windows Phone community?

My pleasure. I’d say don’t just sit back and watch other people make apps. If you have an idea (and some spare time!), then grab some books and free tools and get programming!

Righto chaps, you can check out Jame's (Mendzapp) website for more information on Travelnapp or future projects.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.