Last Day on Live Search for Mobile

Today is my last official day on the Live Search for Mobile team. I am moving over to a new team working on some incubating new mobile initiatives in emerging markets (as a South African ex-pat I can relate to this). It has been a fun ride and it is hard to let go of the Windows Mobile client which I think of as 'my baby' (with co-parent Ashley). There is still so much to do. However, some of the things that I have been trying to get shipped since September 2006 are finally going out the door in the upcoming release so I can feel that I have achieved at least some of what I set out to do.

I'll continue blogging here of course, and I expect to blog quite a lot about the new release once it is out.

We started the WM client team in July 2006, after the MOJAX (mobile AJAX) project got killed. That left the core group - the Barrel of Monkeys - without a home. There were five of us - Steve (PM), Ashley and I (dev), John (test) and Danny (architect). Rather than each go off to different jobs we decided to try stick together, and managed to find a home in local search. We had three months to get the v1.0 product out, and it was a hit! We got an awful lot of fan mail from that (and if you were a sender, thanks! We've always appreciated the love :-) ).

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Why There Are no ARCO Gas Prices

We get gas price data from a 3rd party provider. They in turn get the data from credit card companies. ARCO does not accept credit cards.

This is a great example of where user-contributed data would be valuable, and I hope that one day we will be able to extend the feature to include that.

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We're Hiring!

My team is hiring. The job descriptions are below. PM me if you're interested:

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The Windows XP "Upgrade"

I have had all the PCs in our house on Vista since Vista RTMed. This includes my kids computers, and I like the Vista parental controls (although I wish they were more comprehensive, combining not only allowed hours of use but quotas as well). I recently wanted to run my old copy of the game Creatures, and could not get it to install on Vista. This was sufficiently frustrating that I decided to switch one PC back to XP. With all the stories in the blogosphere of people "upgrading" to XP I thought it would be an interesting contrast to go back.

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Channel 10 Video coming soon!

Last week the Channel 10 team visited us and shot some video of us demoing the Live Search for Mobile client, including some of the features of our upcoming release (real soon now!) I'm not sure when the edited video will be available - I guess after the release - but will update this posting with a link when it is.

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Connectivity problems with Live Search on Blackberry

I just wanted to share this information that one of our Blackberry devs, Didier, sent to a customer who was having problems as it may be useful to others:

Since Live Search for BlackBerry is distributed as an independent third party application, it works only if such applications are allowed to do network requests, which may depend on both your carrier network policies and your subscription type.

We support three connection modes in Live Search for BlackBerry: Direct HTTP, BES/MDS and WAP Gateway, but for CDMA devices only Direct HTTP and BES/MDS are possible (WAP is specific to GPRS/Edge carriers). BES/MDS is for corporate devices administrated through the company’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server, Direct HTTP is for individual subscribers. You can try both modes if you are unsure of your configuration (in Options > Enter your network configuration parameters).

But some BlackBerry data plans may be limited to Email & Web browsing and Live Search will not work in this case.

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Webkinz Are Evil

My daughter bought a Webkinz today. These are cheap stuffed animals that sell at a premium because they have a 'secret code' that allow you to access the Webkinz website and play games, etc. So of course she wanted me to set her up to access the site (her PC was locked down to only allow access to PBS Kids).

We go to the site, sign her up, and then sign in. This launches a new window running an Adobe Flash app. The URL is not even tied to a domain, but uses a numeric IP address. After watching it flash 'Loading' for a while, we get a picture of a green field - and nothing happens. Meanwhile my wife starts complaining from upstairs that the network has slowed to a total crawl; not only can't she browse but even the LAN is pretty hosed, with Outlook frozen up while trying to send an e-mail to the local Exchange server in the next room.

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Scanner + Printer == Photocopier (eventually)

My wife has been bugging me to make it easier for her to use our scanner and printer to make copies. I could buy a cheap all-in-one but she actually needs laser copies, not inkjet, for her hobby of stamp carving (she can iron a laser-printed image to make a basic transfer). The scanner and printer are attached to my PC but she wants to make copies without having to log on to my PC or bother me.

I believe that HP scanners can do this, but I have an Epson Perfection 4490, and if you press the 'Scan to Printer' button on the front it pops up UI on the PC. It's definitely not a one-step process and the buttons are a bit of a joke. So I thought I'd write my own app using Window Image Acquisition to do this. My original plan was to write something that hooked the button event and then slept in the notification tray, waking up when the button gets pressed.

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Why There Is No Integration With Outlook Mobile Contacts

We often get asked why we don't have a menu item in the Contacts app on the phone to map a contact, but Google does. The comments can sometimes be quite disparaging (like what's wrong with you people in Redmond, anyway?). So here is the tale, told by an idiot, without much sound or fury.

Early in 2006 I wrote the code to hook into Contacts. It worked pretty well, and we planned to ship this in our v2 release in July '07. Shortly before our release date, Google released an update to their Windows Mobile map app, and they had the feature. So we immediately decided to test to make sure we played nicely together.

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