Thursday, September 23, 2010

More on Open Music Platform

Ok, so I’m sure some people have read my post yesterday about the market speak coming from Microsoft about the state of Zune Marketplace in Australia.

I thought I should probably take some time out to explain my thoughts/feelings a little better.

Open Music Platform

I think the idea of having DRM free music, being able to share your music between devices regardless of where it came from is very important. I have a very large collection of completely LEGAL music that I want on my mobile devices.

From an adoption point of view, being able to sync a Windows Mobile 7 device with music you purchased from iTunes is great, and I wouldn’t expect anything less.

The State of Music In Australia

In Australia, we have very limited ways to get downloadable music. We have iTunes, Bigpond Music if your a Bigpond user and that’s about it. There are a number of online music stores online, but due to licensing restrictions they can’t sell us music in Australia. Sure, we can trick them by using US Proxies, Paying with US credit cards etc, but the point is that it’s actually against the Terms and Agreements and probably illegal.

Marketing Speak

The post I pointed to from Dave Glover didn’t do anything to clarify the original point that Zune Marketplace doesn’t allow Music Downloads within Australia. He went on to point out how we could use existing music we owned, get music from other sources, and all the Video content we could get. But I go back to the point that he didn’t address the original issue of not being able to buy music through Zune Marketplace which can be enjoyed in the US and Europe.

Usage Scenarios

Lets look at the major competition from an Entertainment point of view. You know who I’m talking about, Apple and their iPhone and iPad.

  • iOwners can use one tool to download new music and sync with their devices. It’s easy to use and just works. This is a simple scenario that won’t be available to Windows Phone 7 owners in Australia.
  • iPhones and iPads can natively access iTunes through wireless internet access. If you want new music and you have signal then it’s available. Again, this won’t be available to Windows Phone 7 owners in Australia.

Why is this happening

There are only 2 possible reasons I can imagine that would prevent Australian Windows Phone 7 owners from accessing online music.

  • MPAA or some other Music Industry representatives cannot come to an agreement with Microsoft. I actually find this unlikely due to the fact that Apple managed to get some sort of agreement in place.
  • Microsoft View the potential market in Australia to be too small, and therefore won’t invest the time and money into getting an agreement and systems in place.

My Criticism

My issue with this whole thing is the Marketing crap that comes out of Microsoft about this issue. It is an issue that will affect the uptake of the phone.

In addition to this, I did take the time out to reply to Dave Glover yesterday through the comments on his post. I think the worst thing I said in the post was “contempt”, in the context of the way they (Microsoft) can’t be honest about what’s going on. But it seems my comment didn’t make it through moderation process.

What I’d Like to See

This is really simple. I’d like to see Microsoft publicly acknowledge this as an issue and at least explain why we can get Video on our phones (I don’t care for this) but won’t be able to get music (I care about this). Possibly even detail what they are doing to correct it.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An “Open Music Platform”

Sorry, that just sounds like marketing speak for “We are not going to provide music downloads for you”.

What am I talking about? Read this.

One of the things that has made iAnythings so popular is iTunes. It’s a one stop shop for Apps, Videos AND MUSIC. The iWantItNow generation don’t go to the music shop to buy CDs, take it home, rip it (is that even legal?) and then sync to their iDevice. Nope, they login to iTunes, download it and sync. 5 Minutes max to get the music they want.

With Windows Phone 7, we will have a useful tool called Zune. This works with the Zune marketplace and in the US, most of Europe and a whole heap of other countries, it will be the perfect replacement for iTunes. In Australia, we can only download Videos, not Music. In fact, in Australia we can’t use most online music stores due to the fact that we are not in the United States..

The answer is actually pretty simple.. Buy your music through iTunes then use the Zune software to sync with your phone.. But this isn’t as easy as it should be. Another option is to trick Zune into thinking your in the US, but that’s just not right is it..

Anyway, please don’t treat people in Australia with such contempt by telling us about Open Music Platforms. That’s just a nice way of saying “You don’t get it, suck it up”.

Monday, September 20, 2010

ASP.Net Crypto Attack

Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week you are probably now aware of the Crypto attack that is in the wild and targets ASP.Net applications. This attack is raising many of the same issues that we see regularly in the industry with SQL Injection Attacks.

Wait, what?? Yes, this is another of those situations where Developers and Administrators have been lazy. Yes, it is a Vulnerability and it needs to be fixed, but it’s also become a massive issue because a large number of ASP.Net applications don’t handle errors correctly.

The recommended workaround (from the MS Security Advisory) is to simply enable customErrors and redirect to a generic error page. Simple fact is that EVERY ASP.Net app out there should be doing this already. This is one of the many steps to mitigating against attacks on websites including SQL Injection attacks. Returning any information to potentially malicious users is bad.

So, let me quickly run through the bare essentials.

If your using .Net 3.0 or earlier, add this to your config file:

<location allowOverride="false">
<customErrors mode="On"
defaultRedirect="~/error.html" />

For .Net 3.5 and above

<location allowOverride="false">
<customErrors mode="On"
defaultRedirect="~/ErrorPage.aspx" />

There is an additional step that you should take to this. In your error page, add in a random sleep to the Page_Load event. Why?? The short and easy answer is that some attacks use timing information to derive information. Adding in a random sleep (generate the random number through the crypto engine) helps to remove another potential vector for gathering information.

Please, don’t be lazy, make sure your Web Apps are secure.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another Sad Day

Well, today’s the day. The official launch of the IE9 Beta, and it’s made me sad. I’m not sad because of what IE9 is. IE9 looks to be an absolutely awesome browser, much faster than previous version, possibly more secure and a hell of a lot sexier.

I’m sad because like may other people out there, I spend a large amount of time sitting in a Corporate environment that is still sitting years behind. Yep, I’m still on Windows XP. This limits me to IE8, or one of the many other browsers out there.

At home, I’ve already installed IE9 beta, and I have to say that my initial impressions are pretty good.. What can I say, I’m not particularly fussy about my browser, I just want it too work. IE9 Beta seems to fit that so far and has a few features that I’m pretty excited about. Pinning Web Pages and having them almost feel like an extension of the desktop is amazing. It’s just not the sort of amazing that I can experience at work.

I think for now, my Netbook

with wireless internet access is going to be how my web browsing is done from work. It’s just going to be separate from the corporate network.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Warnings and Code Analysis

During development, I do my best to ensure that I eliminate warning and issues identified through code analysis. I like to do this from the start so I don’t have a massive list of “clean up” at the end of a project.

Unfortunately not all of the projects I work on start from a clean state. Like me, many developers inherit a large code base that needs to be extended, patched and enhanced. More often then not, these projects come with hundreds or even thousands of compiler warnings and have probably never been run through any static code analysis.

For code analysis, I have used FxCop and now Visual Studio Code Analysis. Using these tools, I can identify issues and correct them. On a few occasions however, the “issues” are by design and I can easily put a suppression on the error. Suppressions can happen at many levels, but I prefer to generally suppress issues at the lowest possible level. This makes me review every instance of an issue instead of blindly hiding things.

When you suppress a code analysis warning, you can add in an options reason for the suppression. This acts as inline documentation that allows me to share my reasons for doing this.

Now, this is where I currently have an issue. Compiler warnings don’t allow suppressions on a per-instance level. The best we have is the ability to suppress all warning of a type for a particular project.

I’d like the ability to attribute methods, properties or classes to suppress compiler warnings just like I can with my code analysis. Not only that, I’d like to be able to leave documentation as to why I’ve suppressed a compiler warning.

I guess what I’m asking for is to just implement support for compiler warnings that’s identical to code analysis in Visual Studio. This would make my life a lot easier, particularly when working with large inherited code bases.

Datagrids Oh my..

I’m just going to lay this out there.. Datagrids are the bane of my existence.

Ever since I started in IT, I’ve had the fun job of fixing issues in applications that insist on using Datagrids as edit controls. Datagrids are great tools for displaying information and for selecting data, but they are USLESS for editing.

Use a master/detail layout, or even a popup edit window.. Do something else.. BUT please don’t use datagrids for editing.

When WPF first shipped, did you notice that it DIDN’T have a datagrid? Did anybody stop to think that maybe this was a good thing?? Nope, everybody complained.. “WE NEED A DATAGRID”..

WPF shipped with a ListView and a ListBox. These were fine for displaying data and data selection. WPF also shipped with some really great edit controls.. These edit controls should be used for their intended purpose. You guessed it.. Editing data..

Please, stop the datagrid abuse. 

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Windows Mobile Development Blues

Well, with the official RTM for windows mobile 7 today, I thought I might grab the developer tools (beta) and have a bit of a play. So, over to the Windows Phone Developer site to download the tools.

The download was a very smooth process (as it should be, it’s just an ISO). I mounted the ISO as a drive and clicked setup.exe.. FAIL!!!

So, I started checking all the pre-reqs.

  • Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate (Check) *
  • Windows Vista/Window 7 (FAIL)

Yep, I’m at work, and my development machine is still running Windows XP. It’s a brand new box, 2.8GH Xeon processor, 4GB ram, SSD hard drive and Windows XP..

It seems the emulator for WinMo7 requires DirectX 10.1, which is why it won’t run on XP. It’s not a huge issue for me, because I have a few Win 7 machines at home that I can have a play with.

What does concern me however, is that there are a number of businesses/government agencies out there who still run Windows XP and will take another year or more to migrate. During that time, they are effectively locked out of doing development for a new exciting platform.

Will this effect the uptake of devices in a corporate setting?? Possibly. What it means for me is that it’s going to be very hard to push for WinMo7 as a platform until the organisation upgrades, which could still be a year or more away.

* The developer tools install VS 2010 express, but the tools can still be used from inside the full version of 2010.