Category: Computer Software

Cortana gets skilled up to fight Alexa

Articles

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

The Amazon Alexa platform now faces some healthy competition from Microsoft

Here’s What Cortana Will Do in Devices | Tom’s Guide

HP and Intel are building Cortana-powered devices | Engadget

HP is also building its own Cortana speaker | The Verge

More Cortana-powered devices are on the way from HP and Intel | Windows Central

Harman Kardon’s Invoke speaker is a Cortana-powered take on an Amazon Echo | The Verge

Microsoft shows how Cortana will work in speakers and cars | The Verge

From the horse’s mouth

Harman-Kardon

Invoke speaker

Product Page

Microsoft

Cortana Skills

Catalogue Page

Development Kit Web page

Windows Developer blog post (Skills Kit and Devices SDK)

Windows Developer blog post (Skills Kit)

My Comments

Amazon Alexa is now facing real competition from Microsoft’s Cortana.

More devices with Cortana

This is coming about through Microsoft making it easy for device manufacturers to add the Cortana voice-driven personal assistant to their designs, including allowing vehicle builders to integrate her in to their vehicles’ infotainment systems.

Harman-Kardon, now part of Samsung, have premiered the Invoke smart speaker which is driven by Cortana while HP and Intel have registered interest in building Cortana-driven devices. Even BMW and Nissan have registered interest in integrating Cortana in their vehicles’ infotainment systems, most likely something that will be offered as an option.

The Creators Update build of Windows 10 IoT Core edition will have integrated Cortana support, but Microsoft has released the Cortana Devices SDK to make it feasible to have Cortana on more devices from other device manufacturers. It is also worth knowing that this functionality also extends to providing Skype IP telephony support to these devices, placing Cortana and Alexa on an even footing.

Microsoft are taking this concept further by making it feasible to “carry” an action between Cortana-equipped devices. The example cited in the press coverage highlighted a situation where an email comes in while you are driving. Here, you could instruct her to read a summary of this email to you or to remind you about it when you log in to your Windows-equipped regular computer at the office so you can read and reply to it there.

Ability to develop more Skills for Cortana

As well Microsoft have made available a development kit so that online services and Internet-Of-Things vendors can add “skills” to Cortana as they could with Alexa. But these will allow the Skills to run on multiple devices and cater to devices that implement different user interfaces. For example, you could implement a restaurant-recommendations Skill in to Cortana and ask her for a list of local eateries of a particular cuisine kind. In this case, if your device has a screen, you would see a list of these eateries with a name and address while she reads out the names. Or she could simply read out their names in the order of locality and star-rating so you can simply book a table there.

Of course, there is the ability for those of us who have created Skills for the Amazon Alexa ecosystem to easily port them to the Cortana ecosystem. Here, a developer could get things going so that their voice-driven online-service or device interface program can run on both an Amazon Echo or a Cortana-based device.

The question that is yet to arise is how Alexa and Cortana will compete with each other on the capabilities, user interfaces, number of Skills, number of devices supporting each platform and other aspects.

Send to Kindle

How is software being installed on most computers

Windows 10 Pro buy-to-download screen

Windows 10 Pro – an example of software delivered by download

Increasingly most software is being supplied to users using a form of online delivery, whether through an app store or through a download from the developer’s Website. It is also leading to the process of buying a voucher card to facilitate the download rather than a box of media and documentation when you buy software from a bricks-and-mortar shop.

But there are two different approaches to this method of delivery. One of these is for the user to download a monolith installer that has all the necessary files to get the program up and running on your computer’s platform. Here, you would download the large file and the installer would “unpack” that large file and put the software components in place then set thing up with the host computer’s operating system so the program runs as expected.

Monolith software-installer file for offline installation

Monolith software-installer file for offline installation

This installer resembles the traditional delivery method of supplying computer software where the program was delivered on packaged media to be loaded on the computer. It also is a practice that was used for delivering shareware and other software that was downloaded from a bulletin board or Internet download site. In the latter case, the software was delivered as a “file of files” like a ZIP file which the user expanded using a utility before they ran the software.

Lightweight installer file used for online installation

Lightweight installer file used for online installation

The other way that is preferred by major software and game vendors when they deliver their major titles is to have the user download and run a lightweight installer which downloads the rest of the software components on an as-needed basis. It appeals to companies who want to establish an end-to-end software-delivery infrastructure, as well as providing the files that the user really needs. This method is also preferred because it allows the software developer to deliver the latest stable version of the software’s files.

A problem that I have noticed surfacing with some lightweight installers is that some of them may crash during an installation phase and could, at worst, leave corrupted files on the host computer. This can also happen if the Internet connection becomes sub-par and the download becomes interrupted. There is also the requirement to have the Internet connection alive for the duration of your download which may be a limiting factor for costly Internet connections like mobile broadband.

A computer-support job that I had done involved the installation of some Adobe Creative Cloud software on a Mac. The person who owns the computer I am talking about bought this software through a “bricks-and-mortar” retail store but it was delivered as a software voucher which they had to redeem through Adobe’s Website. But the redemption page required us to download and run a lightweight installer to start deploying this software in the Mac.

Here, this installer wouldn’t start and would show confusing error messages. But Adobe implemented an alternative path for deploying this software. This was in the form of a “trial pack” that was a monolith installer that carried everything needed for the software to be installed on a Mac but could run either as a trial version or a full package once you supplied the credentials associated with the software voucher that they bought.

If you are finding that a lightweight installer for that new package has failed to run or the install has malfunctioned, it may be a good idea to look around the software developer’s site for an alternative installation. This may be found in the support section as something like an “offline installer” or, like in Adobe’s case, may be the trial package that “becomes the full version” when you supply the software-voucher or voucher-redemption details like a serial number or activation code.

Some if the better-behaved “lightweight-install” setups like Microsoft’s operating systems implement a quality-check process through the install process and are able to “pick up from where they left off”. Here, they can revise the files already downloaded to make sure they are error free while the download any missing or corrupted files. As well, if a download was interrupted, they identify which files have been properly downloaded and which ones haven’t so that they can fetch the remainder of the software package when the connection comes good again.

Personally, I would like to see the lightweight installer still exist as a way to deliver an always up-to-date package that represents your needs, along with one or more monolith packages representing popular packages for offline deployment or as a failover measure. As well, lightweight installers could offer an option to “start from the beginning” during the download phase for whenever you are dealing with bad downloads and you want to be sure of a good download process.

Send to Kindle

Your XBox One now has direct access to your Dropbox media pools

Article

XBox One games console press photo courtesy Microsoft

Now you can have access to the pictures and videos on your Dropbox account through this games console

Dropbox Debuts App for Xbox One | Windows Supersite

Dropbox Now Has An Xbox One App | The Verge

From the horse’s mouth

Dropbox

Blog Post

Download Link

Microsoft Store (Free)

My Comments

Some of you may be exploiting Dropbox as a media pool for the various special occasions in your family’s or friends’ life. This is because of the ability to share photos at best quality with those you want to share them with, including the ability for you to have people contribute photos and videos to the same Dropbox folder you have for that purpose.

In HomeNetworking01.info, I had outlined how you can integrate your Dropbox media-pool folders with your DLNA-capable NAS and Smart TV by copying them a folder on that same NAS. The use cases I was calling out regarding Dropbox media-pool folders include special occasions such as weddings or major birthdays, the children growing up including pictures of the new baby, or memorialising a loved one who had passed away including choosing the pictures to show at their funeral.

The Dropbox app for XBox One

XBox One connected to Dropbox concept diagram

This is how the XBox One can fit in to the Dropbox ecosystem

But you can have direct access to these media pools thanks to Dropbox’s first effort to target consumer-electronics devices. Here, they wrote up a native client program for the Microsoft XBox One games console. It has been achieved thanks to the ability provided by the Microsoft Universal Windows Platform to allow one to create a piece of software for a Windows 10 regular computer, a Windows 10 phone or an XBox with minimal effort to cater to that new device.

What you can do is that you can view the photos and videos and play audio files in all of the folders in your Dropbox account through your large-screen TV connected to the XBox One.

Here, you can operate its user interface using one of the XBox game controllers or the XBox Media Remote, presenting that kind of user interface expected for consumer-electronics devices such as heavy reliance on the D-pad buttons on the remote. As well, the visual interface is optimised for the 10-foot “lean-back” experience associated with the TV screen and software destined for that use case.

Ability to use USB storage devices with the Dropbox app on XBox One

You can also upload files from attached USB Mass-Storage devices to your Dropbox using this same client, which can come in handy when you want to deliver photos from your digital camera’s SD card to that media pool.

Similarly, you can download and copy the files from your Dropbox account to an attached USB Mass-Storage device. A use case for this function would be to copy choice photos from that Dropbox media pool to a USB thumbdrive that you hand over to a digital print shop like most of the office-supply stores or camera stores so you have snapshots to put in that album or show to others; or to show in an offline environment.

The ability to transfer files between your USB storage device and your Dropbox folders using the Dropbox app on the XBox One means that the largest screen in the house makes it easier to make a better call about what pictures and videos should be contributed or taken further. This is due to the fact that two or more people can see a larger image to make that better call.

Conclusion

What Dropbox is doing with their XBox application is to prove that they can write a native front-end program for their online storage service that is relevant to consumer-electronics devices and is presented with the 10-foot “lean-back” experience. Who knows if Dropbox will develop native client software for other smart-TV, set-top box and games-console platforms to allow users to gain direct access to this online service from the biggest screens in the house.

Send to Kindle

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake ultraportable–check for software updates for best performance

Article

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook - press picture courtesy of Dell

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook – keep this running at its best with the latest downloads from Dell’s Website

Dell XPS 13 (9360) with Kaby Lake gets a suite of new drivers and fixes | Windows Central

From the horse’s mouth

Dell

New XPS 13 Ultrabook

Product Page (Buy Here!) – currently AUD$2299

Support Page

My Comments

You may be pestering your boss about a new ultraportable computer for your work or perhaps your old laptop has been showing the dreaded doughnut for a bit too long and you have enough money set aside for one of the latest and greatest Ultrabooks. Dell has the latest XPS 13 Kaby Lake variant just released with a price of AUD$1899 (Intel Core i5 Kaby Lake CPU, 8Gb RAM, 128Gb SSD, Windows 10 Home) but keep an eye on the Dell website for specials where the machine may be offered cheaper.

This “portable-typewriter-size” Ultrabook will have the latest Intel processor and chipset, Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C connectivity and other niceties with the ability to exploit 802.11ac Wi-Fi network segments with a strong reliable signal thanks to Rivet Killer Wireless technology. But are you sure you are getting the “best bang for the buck” once you order it from Dell?

Because this Ultrabook has just been released with drivers and firmware “just out the gate”, you may find that it may not cut the mustard as expected like with equipment that has just been released. But Dell have answered this reality by issuing the latest drivers and patches for this system that have been “tuned up” to bring out the best performance from this Ultrabook.

The article recommended that, as part of getting your new “toy” ready for its full-on use, you make sure it is running the latest drivers and support software for its hardware functionality. Most likely, you will spend time making sure it works with your home and/or business network and peripherals; installing the software that is important for your work and play activities; verifying you can get to your online hangouts from this new device, as well as enabling the features that are so important to you. But you would need to factor in spending time checking for newer drivers so the computer performs at its best.

They may not show up on the Dell Update utility software packaged with this system as “critical” but are more likely as “recommended” downloads. You may find it more reliable to hit up the support page and download the necessary updates here. Some of the drivers listed may be about assured stability with the “expansion-module” docks that Dell has available for this system. Here, you may not think of them as being relevant for you if you didn’t purchase any of those accessories from Dell, but they can be as relevant for any adaptors or “expansion-module” docks that appear under a different brand but use the same electronics as Dell’s accessories for one or more of their functions.

The same situation will also apply to whatever new computer you have purchased especially if it has just been released, whereupon you may have to use the manufacturer’s software update utility to pick out the drivers and support software for your system’s hardware. Similarly, you may have to visit the manufacturer’s support or downloads page to find the latest downloads for your computer such as to update the supplied software to newer and better standards.

A similar situation had crept up when I was doing some support work for a friend of mine who had problems with his laptop not associating with his home network since he upgraded it to Windows 10. Here, it required the installation of drivers and firmware from the manufacturer’s support Website in order for it to work properly under that newer operating system and take advantage of what it had to offer. Again, you may have to use the manufacturer’s software update utility or visit their support or downloads page after you perform a major update on the computer’s operating system.

The same thing can happen if your computer is equipped with a subsystem like a wireless-network chipset or audio chipset which implements software-defined behaviour. This is where the subsystem’s functionality is evolved under the command of driver and support software – newer software could improve the subsystem’s existing functionality, make the subsystem honour new standards and become more compatible, or add extra capabilities to that subsystem.

One of the issues that was raised in the article was whether Dell, like the rest of the computer manufacturers, will make these drivers available through the Windows Update mechanism that Microsoft provides or not rather than having to write and furnish an update utility of their own.

A reality that may be seen more is that the OEMs who supply the chipsets or other electronics that look after a particular function, such as Intel, Qualcomn or other wireless-network chipsets that are furnished with newer laptop computers, is that these OEMs may provide the updated drivers for the electronics concerned and you may find that these drivers haven’t been updated as far as the computer manufacturer is concerned. Here, if you know whom the OEM is for that chipset, something you can identify in Device Manager which will list the the extant software drivers installed on your system for its hardware. This same situation also faces desktop computers that you build or upgrade yourself or have built up by an independent computer store.

Similarly, for computers that implement a recovery image for the operating system and supplied applications, you may find that updated versions of the drivers and supplied software may not make it to the recovery image. This can be annoying if you have to “strip” your computer back to ground-zero and reinstall everything during situations like rectifying faults or preparing to hand the computer over to someone else. This could be improved with the ability to amalgamate newer versions of the same software in to the recovery image.

Paying attention to Windows Update, the software-update software delivered by your computer’s manufacturer or the computer manufacturer’s support / download pages can allow you to keep your computer like the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook to the expectations that its manufacturer placed on it.

Send to Kindle

FLAC–now the audio filetype for archival use

Naim NDS network audio player

This high-end Naim NDS network audio player is an example of equipment that can handle the lossless FLAC file type

If you work with audio content, whether to “rip” CDs to the hard disk or home network, or record speech or music content for audio projects, you may have been dealing with various compressed filetypes like MP3 or AAC as your main recording format.

But most of these filetypes work on a lossy principle where data is effectively lost and when the file is played back, the software reconstitutes that file to make it something to listen to. Now an open-source file format has been released to allow for lossless compression of audio content.

This recently-issued format, known as FLAC or Free Lossless Audio Codec, has answered many audio technicians’ prayers because the sound is encoded in a manner as to prevent the loss of audio content through recording or playback. This is in a similar manner to how a ZIP or RAR “file-of-files” is prepared in order to conserve disk space or bandwidth. You still have the advantage of a compressed file not taking up too much storage space or transmission bandwidth. Being an open-source free codec, it means that audio applications can implement this codec without the need to pay royalties to particular organisations and there are very few other encumbrances on that codec.

FLAC re-rip of CD

FLAC – a better archival format

One of the best analogies that I came across for using FLAC in the audio-archival context is that it is like if you are a wine collector and you purchase a premium wine-cellar to keep your collection. Here, the wine-cellar is keeping the wine collection at an ideal temperature and humidity for long-term storage. But when you want to serve that drop at the dinner party, you have the bottle sitting on the sideboard and resting until it is at the ideal serving temperature.

Previously this required a user to download and install a FLAC codec on their computer to be able to record, play or edit these files. Then the Linux and Android operating systems had native support for this filetype built in to tie operating system and various audio applications provided application-level support for working with these files. Similarly, high-end sound cards and USB DACs furnished this codec as part of their software. Now Windows 10 has provided native support for FLAC files including ripping CDs to these files.

How can I use FLAC in my audio workflow

Creating your digital-audio content

If you use a computer or a file-based digital-audio recorder (including some digital mixers) to record audio content, make sure that you record as a PCM form like a WAV or AIFF file; or as a FLAC file. You may find that some equipment like a lot of the digital mixers with integrated USB recording abilities may only work with USB hard disks or solid-state drives that use high-speed data transfer if you have them record to WAV or similar files.

Then you use an audio editor like Audacity, NCH WavePad, or Rogue Amoeba’s Fission; or an audio converter program like NCH Switch, dbPowerAmp or Foobar2000 to convert the WAV or AIFF file in to a FLAC file. You may find that some video converters may offer audio-to-audio conversion for the FLAC file.

dbPoweramp Music Converter - one of the audio converters worth using out there

dbPoweramp Music Converter – one of the audio converters worth using out there

You could do this to your audio file once you have that file in “master-ready” condition – you have edited it and applied any audio transformations to that file to get it sounding right and it is ready to distribute. On the other hand, you could also create a “raw” FLAC file from the WAV or AIFF you have recorded before you perform any of the editing and audio transformation work. In this situation, you then use this “raw” file as your reference file if you needed to approach the editing in another way.

Even if you are salvaging audio content from legacy media like LPs, open-reel tapes or cassettes, you can still use FLAC as your audio filetype for these efforts. Here, you can use theses FLAC files simply as the digital archive for this media.

As you create or edit a FLAC file, you can add metadata about the content you recorded to that file and, like with MP3 files, that data which describes the song title, performer, genre, album and other attributes stays with that file. This will work properly with smartphones or media players that play these files; along with DLNA media servers that distribute these files across small networks – these servers can index them and have them found according to the metadata that describes the content.

Distributing your FLAC-based audio content

When you distribute your content, you can then use the FLAC file as your source file – you could simply copy that file if you are targeting newer FLAC-compatible  “open-frame” equipment like Android or Windows 10 smartphones or Windows computers, or convert to MP3, AAC or Apple Lossless for Apple and other equipment that doesn’t support FLAC. Similarly, most current-issue DLNA-capable NAS units can work from FLAC files especially if you have FLAC-capable playback equipment on the network.

The FLAC file is also useful as a “master” audio file if you are creating an Audio CD because it is a compressed audio file that has has the same audio qualities as a PCM WAV or AIFF file. Similarly, you may have to convert the FLAC to a WAV or AIFF if you are importing it in to a video editing program for use as part of your video project’s soundtrack.

Conclusion

Once you use FLAC as your main file type for audio recording and editing or simply convert legacy audio files to FLAC, you are then ending up with a digital-audio file that can be used as an archival or distribution-master form.

Send to Kindle

Facebook Messenger goes native on Windows 10 desktop at last

Article

Facebook finally brings Messenger and Instagram apps to Windows 10 | CNet

Facebook Messenger for Windows 10 PC now live in the Windows Store | Windows Central

From the horse’s mouth

Facebook

Press Release

Windows Store link

My Comments

Facebook Messenger Windows 10 native client

Facebook Messenger – now native on Windows 10

Previously, I wrote about why desktop operating systems need to be supported with native-client apps for messaging platforms. Here I highlighted how the likes of ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger and Skype started off in the “regular-computer” / desktop operating system sphere and when the smartphones came on the scene, newer messaging platforms ended up being based on iOS and Android mobile platforms first.

Facebook Messenger Windows 10 live tile

Facebook Messenger live tile – now a message waiting indicator

The advantages that I highlighted included a stable client program that works tightly with the operating system; and the ability to work tightly with the operating system’s file-system. security and user-experience features extracting the maximum benefit from the user experience.

Now Facebook have answered this goal by providing a native client for Microsoft Windows 10 users, especially those of us using regular computers running this operating system.

Facebook Messenger Live Tile - Tablet mode

Facebook Messenger Live Tile – Tablet mode

This program ticks the boxes for a native client app by using its Notification Center to show incoming messages and chats; along with the ability to show messages as a Live Tile on your Start Menu. There is the ability to upload photos, videos and GIFs from your computer’s file system, which can be a bonus when you have downloaded your pictures from your good digital camera and worked on them using a good image-editing tool.

Of course, you have the features associated with your iOS-based or Android-based Facebook Messenger experience such as knowing when your correspondents are “up-to-date” with the conversation. As well, you have that similarly uncluttered experience which makes it easy to navigate your chats while it doesn’t take up much room on your screen when it is in the default windowed state.

Send to Kindle

Elementary video software available for peanuts

It is worth knowing that if you are wanting to dabble with video editing, there are some options out there that offer more functionality than what Apple and Microsoft offer for their platforms but are within the budget range of most hobbyists, small businesses and community organisations.

NCH and Wondershare offer video-editing and video-conversion tools that are easy to use for someone with modest computer skills but don’t cost an arm and a leg. Here, the video conversion options are NCH Prism (US$50) and Wondershare Video Converter (US$50) and your video-editing options are NCH VideoPad (US$69) and Wondershare Filmora (US$50).

I have experienced these tools or seen them in action for myself with, for example, my former pastor turning out a video of my church’s recent overseas missionary trip using Wondershare Filmora. He was able to get a very impressive video without having to face a steep learning curve.

These video tools can earn their keep for turning out “small-time” video efforts without having to face either paying through the nose for the software or taking a long time to learn the software. In some cases, they may make you justify the use of the video abilities in your DSLR or premium compact digital camera or you buying a digital camcorder.

Send to Kindle

System recovery images–how about updatimg them

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 connected to Wi-Fi hotspot at Bean Counter Cafe

The recovery image on these computers could be part of an update program to simplify refreshing them with the latest version of the operating system if they fail

Increasingly a lot of computer systems, especially laptops and tablets, are making use of so-called “recovery” images. This same practice also applies whenever an organisation is using a disk image with the operating system and applications that are the software component of a standard operating environment.

These are a disk image of all of the operating system and supplied applications that are delivered by the system manufacturer or value-added reseller and installed on the system when it is first set up. The computer makes use of these images if the computer has to be taken to “ground zero” due to a virus or corrupt data or before the user hands the computer to someone else. Newer operating systems use these images as part of a system refresh routine in order to remove corrupt data and bring stability to the computer’s configuration.

But what can happen is that as operating system and application developers keep refining their software, what exists on these system recovery images represents software that is way out of date. This reminds me of a support visit where Microsoft Word was continually crashing on a desktop computer and I had discovered that the computer was running an “out-of-the-box” version of Windows Vista which hadn’t had any service packs installed.

Typically, this will lead to reinstalling any and all patches and updates that were rolled out since the recovery image was created. But how can this be resolved?

One way would be for the manufacturer or value-added reseller to create a “recovery image service pack” and deliver that either as a USB stick or through an authenticated download to the computer users. Then the users install this service pack to replace the original recovery image to have an up-to-date reference image. This cond be created at regular intervals such as every six months.

Another way would be to create a dynamic system image that consists of the latest versions of the operating system and application files. The changed files can be added ot that image as part of installing the latest patches. Similarly, an “image update” app could check for newer hardware drivers for the hardware that is integrated with the computer system itself.

These issues may involve determining how installation and recovery disk images are built wiht a view to focus on the images referring ot major versions and editions of the software concerned along with any peripheral drivers. In the latter case, it may be about obtaining hardware-series-specific drivers rather than drivers that focus on that particular piece of hardware.

As well, with operating systems like Windows and OS X being offered with free major-version updates, the recovery image may also be about installing the latest major version of that operating system’s edition.

Send to Kindle

The Universal Windows platform gains momentum

Article

Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows 10’s Universal Windows platform now in place and allowing for an app to serve smartphones, tablets and regular computers

Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform might be gaining momentum | SuperSite For Windows

My Comments

With Windows 10 out in the field, Microsoft has been observing that the Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform has been gathering steam.

What has been valued about the Universal Windows Platform is that a single codebase exists for applications destined for the Windows 10 Desktop operating system on regular computers and larger tablets; the Windows 10 Mobile operating system on smartphones, phablets and small tablets; along with the XBox One games console which would be used as a set-top box for online entertainment.

Candy Crush Saga gameplay on Windows 10

Candy Crush Saga – an example of what can be done here

Microsoft has worked on some software-development tools to simplify the process of porting apps from other mobile platforms to the Universal Windows Platform. One of these was the Project Astoria which simplified the process of porting Android apps but this was put aside while the Project Islandwood which facilitates the porting of iOS (iPhone and iPad) apps gained more traction.

This showed up initially with the ability for you to play Candy Crush Saga on your Windows 10 computer or Windows mobile phone. But now Uber, TuneIn Radio and other apps have shown up in the Windows Store. TuneIn Radio would have the same benefit across the board as a way to have Internet radio play on your regular computer like I have done a few times with Windows 8.

The article saw no use for the Uber ride-booking client on a regular computer. But I see Uber and other journey-booking apps that are pitched to smartphone users being relevant also to regular-computer users including those of us using desktop computers. This is because of the ability to book your ride using your Windows-based regular computer rather than finding your smartphone to do the job. User classes that would benefit are business users booking transport for people like lone workers or valued customers; hotel concierges and others in the accommodation industry; people who use 2-in-1 computers; or householders who use the main family computer to organise transport for members of their household or their houseguests.

As well, I would see the likes of Instagram and Pinterest benefit from this treatment because one could upload a photo taken with their good camera and post it there. They can also implement Instagram’s filters to “treat” the picture before having it available for all and sundry to see.

The Windows 10 Universal Windows platform can make the idea of apps being relevant across all computing devices without the need to write versions of the software to target particular device classes.

Send to Kindle

The effort has paid off for Candy Crush

Previous coverage

It is now simple to port iOS and Android apps to Windows 10

My Comments

Candy Crush Saga gameplay screen Android

Candy Crush Saga on Android

I have played the Android version of Candy Crush Saga and this has performed very smoothly on a variety of Android phone devices that I owned.

But Microsoft and King, the developer of this popular casual game, have worked together and used this game to approach the idea of porting an app from a mobile platform like iOS and Android to a regular-computing platform like Windows 10 along with the XBox One games console. The goal is to make an app or game take advantage of what the subequent platform has to offer without destroying the usage experience that the software is know for.

In the previous article, I cited the computing scene in the 1980s where there was a requirement for games developers to have a game on as many platforms as possible with the best examples being Atarisoft, Sierra and Broderbund. Atarisoft made a strong effort to port the legendary Atari games like PacMan, Asteroids and Centipede to a larger number of popular 1980s home computers while Sierra and Broderbund had games like the Kings Quest, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry and Carmen Sandiego franchises on platforms like the IBM PC, Apple II and Macintosh platforms and Commodore’s legendary games machines of all time. It is also very similar to how Minecraft has been ported between Windows, Macintosh, the mobile platforms and XBox One yet is still very playable.

Candy Crush Saga gameplay on Windows 10

This same game as ported to Windows 10

After installing Windows 10 on my computer, I downloaded the Windows 10 port of Candy Crush Saga to assess how this port was to turn out, especially for mouse-based play. After playing a few rounds, the experience was very much similar to what it was like on the Android version. It had reminded me of the late 80s with Boulder Dash where I had played that game on the Commodore 64 and the Apple IIe where the game yielded the same “boulder-shifting” user experience with the same graphics, sound and gameplay on both those platforms.

But the game’s interface didn’t depend on whether you used a touchscreen or a mouse, Nor did it depend on whether you had the game in a window or in a full-screen mode. Candy Crush Saga was still as playable on the Windows 10 platform as it was on the Android platform.

Microsoft is on a winner with their Project Islandwood and Project Astoria software-development kits in that someone could get a casual game across the mobile platforms and Windows to the same expectations as the late ‘80s home-computing era. This is where each platform’s assets can be taken advantage of very easily yet the user experience is kept consistent.

If Microsoft, Google, Apple and others use their software-development knowhow properly, they could encourage app developers, especially games studios, to have apps and games that maintain a consistent high-quality user interface no matter the computing platform they run on.

Send to Kindle