Winphone 7 App

I just submitted my first Windows Phone 7 application. It’s a simple RPN-notation hex programmer’s calculator. I wanted a replacement for my basically irreplacable HP-16C, a fantastic computer geek calculator that HP discontinued in 1989. I have two of these, and they’re indispensable for mucking around with bits and bytes in a debugging session. But I hate leaving them out; things like this have a habit of walking away when you’re not looking.

[Don’t get me started on calculators with “Equals” keys. I needed something that did RPN . . . more HP calculator stories some other time.]

Since the core logic of a calculator is pretty damned simple, most of the work was futzing around with the user interface. Looking at the “competition” (a couple of freebie / 99-cent titles) I noticed a trend of very bad UI. I went for large buttons (easy to hit in the heat of a debugging marathon), a way to “backspace” and fix input errors (as on the 16C), a simple and large layout, and a core set of everyday operations that I know at least I will use (rule #1 of tool building: Build it for yourself first).

I was surprised by how easy it was to get the app going; from initial prototype to first submission to the marketplace was a little over 24 hours wall-clock time, probably ten hours of keyboarding.

I’m charging 99 cents for it. Who knows, I might make a buck or two. It was sure fun to write.


A few weeks ago I ditched my iPhone (3G model) for a Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that this was only partly because of the subsidy MS provided employees for these phones; I would have bought one anyway.

I was getting quite tired of the iPhone purgatory — I had a smartphone that I couldn’t program, and I was getting more and more upset at the stupid stunts that Apple was pulling on developers. There was stuff that I wanted to do on my phone, and I didn’t want to invest in a Mac and learn iOS and Objective C and all that. The iPhone market looked pretty saturated, too.

Android? I am not fond of Java, and (more practically) Android doesn’t have the platform uniformity guarantees of Winphone 7 in terms of screen sizes, sensors, CPU and GPU and so forth. Android is out of the running because it looks (for me, at least) like a pain in the rear and not much fun to actually ship an app on. Android might be the platform that takes over the world and stomps everyone named Steve into the 5 percent marketplace share muck, and I would still feel it’s not worth my effort.

And I’m pretty sure I would say the following even if I didn’t work for MS: Microsoft really deserves to win on the Winphone 7 platform. I really like it so far, both as a user, and as a small investor as an app writer.

New Vernor Vinge book in October

Tor Books’ new catalog says that Vernor Vinge’s new book, Children of the Sky, will be out in October 2011. It’s a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep. Wheeee!

Link to Tor Books catalog (pdf).

(via io9)

Other books I’m looking forward to:

Robert Charles Wilson’s Vortex (third in his Spin / Axis series).

Charle Stross’ Rule 34.

David Foster Wallace’s posthumous The Pale King (on April 15th).

Steven Gould 7th Sigma. (If you haven’t read Jumper or Wildside, you’re in a for a treat).

A Little Mindcontrolmusik

’tis the season, therefore whenever I must brave a store I armor myself with a Zune and some loudish music to drown out the Pavlovian Chorus that drives our economy.

Otherwise, I start making up words in my head, like

Elmo roasting on an open fire . . .


Good King Wenceslas came to town
    Looking for a brothel . .

I’m sure this makes me a bad person, especially since I don’t buy much, and I clip coupons when I do.

What does this have to do with hacking, or dadding? Not much. I think I’m still recovering from the last couple years of mucking about with Kinect. I should be fully into the swing of things when the sun next shows its rosy face here in Seattle and I can stop the vitamin D supplements for a while.

Ascent – Space Shuttle launch film and commentary

_Ascent_ is a wonderful video on YouTube describing the filiming and events of a space shuttle launch.!

It’s sad to see the shuttle go, but it will be good to see it be replaced with something less expensive and more appropriate to our actual needs.