Xploding Boxes now on Windows 8

Xploding Boxes is now available for download on Windows 8 through Microsoft’s Windows 8 store. This version of Xploding Boxes has equivalent features to the BlackBerry and Android versions of the game and includes the full 340 levels, with the first 25 being available for free.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes is a strategy game for BlackBerry, Android, Nook, and Windows 8 where the goal of the game is to start a chain reaction that will explode all of the boxes on the screen. Each level gives you a different number of touches, and requires a different strategy to solve.

The game itself, and the first 25 levels are available for free, while an in-app purchase can be used to access the rest of the levels for just $2.99 while maintaining your progress from the free levels.

Windows 8 Features

The game runs on x86, x64 as well as ARM processors like those in the recently released Microsoft Surface. Additionally the Windows 8 version of Xploding Boxes utilizes a live tile displaying your level progress so far, and automatically syncs your in game progress across multiple Windows 8 devices that are registered to your Microsoft account.

Links & Information

Mileage Tracker released for BB10

The brand new Mileage Tracker app has been released for BlackBerry 10 devices. This app is designed to help you track miles driven each trip for use in tax deductions, accounting, and business reporting. Instead of keeping this information charted on your computer, it makes much more sense to be able to do so directly from your phone, which you would have with you in the car anyhow. This app allows you to create different categories, so that you can have separate lists for different billing periods, each vehicle, or on a per project basis.

How to use

In order to start a new entry select the ‘Add’ option on the bottom of the screen. For each trip, you must include a reason, a date, and the starting and ending odometer readings. Selecting an entry gives you the option to edit or delete it. New categories can be added from the menu, and you can switch between existing categories by selecting the category name at the top of the screen. The options screen allows you to restore the most recently deleted entry in case you accidentally delete something.

Links & Information

The odd ecosystem of DevAlpha apps

Last night I submitted a new app to BlackBerry AppWorld. This app was written in Cascades, and therefore only supports BlackBerry 10, which will not be released for another three months. This allows for a unique approach to the release of apps.

There is little to no point of having apps ready to go too much before the release of BlackBerry 10 in 2013, so there is very little pressure to have apps 100% ready to go at this point. As such the app I am releasing is actually not 100% complete. It is in good shape, but there are still a few more features that I would like to add.

So if the app is not yet fully featured then why am I ok releasing it into AppWorld? Because the only users who can download it are other developers. Given that the audience is exclusively developers right now, I can get an audience that is both understanding, and that is also capable of delivering some useful feedback for pointing which direction the app should go, as it gets finished up for the launch of BlackBerry 10.

I doubt that I will do this with most of my BlackBerry 10 apps, but I think that it will be an interesting experiment.

BlackBerry 10 and the UI formerly known as Metro

With the rollout of BlackBerry 10.0.9 RIM is starting to show a different design to their UI that seems to take some cues from Microsoft’s Metro UI. This is most clearly seen on the icon screen, where all of the first party apps have gotten a very boxy look to them. Furthermore every app icon is placed in a square, even if the icon doesn’t plan for it. As with Microsoft’s Windows 8 the use of transparencies in icons is technically allowed, it just looks terrible (on both operating systems).

This squared off look goes even further into the design language of the apps. In cascades most of the native controls have a boxy feel to them (except for the parts that are blue), and contain very few curves on any of the UI elements. This design can easily be seen in the BBM app where the curved text bubbles on BlackBerry 7 have given way to right angles on BlackBerry 10.

For example, the how to play dialog in Xploding Boxes uses the default alert dialog in order to display. While this presented a very curved and rounded UI on the PlayBook and BlackBerry 10.0.6 (first image), it has changed to a more boxed in look on the most recent BlackBerry 10.0.9 release (second image).

PlayBook OS statistics

With version 2.1.0 not released until early in October, September saw very little change in the OS breakdown on the PlayBook, as the vast majority of users were already running the latest version. As with last month 99.6% of users were running OS 2.0.0 or higher, and 98.6% of users were running 2.0.1 or higher.

This data was taken from downloads of the popular PlayBook strategy game Pixelated. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of June 2011 through the end of September 2012.

10 more levels for Runaway Trains

Runaway Trains has been updated to version 2.2 adding an additional 10 levels to the game. Also the level selection screen on the Android and Nook versions of the app have been updated to match the look of the BlackBerry version of the game. Additionally the Android version no longer requires a separate download of the Adobe AIR framework.

About Runaway Trains

Runaway Trains is a colorful strategy game for all ages where you must route the trains to the proper station. Each level progresses in difficulty and presents an unique puzzle which you must solve by finding a way to guide the coloured trains causing a collision or running out of track.

This is done by touching the intersections to toggle the open path of the tracks. If at any time the trains crash or end up at the wrong station, you will have lost and have to try again.

Links & Information

Android app on Google Play

BarCamp Rochester is tomorrow

Tomorrow I will be at BarCamp Rochester on the RIT campus. I am not yet sure if I will have time to put together a presentation before then, but I may cheat and give a short five minute talk during the post lunch lightning sessions.

Either way if you see me there I would be more than happy to take some time to talk about BlackBerry, mobile, or really any topic of interest.

Relative purchase rates by carrier

The below chart shows the relative purchase rate by carrier (normalized by carrier size) of the largest wireless carriers in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The carriers with a bold outline on the chart (AT&T, T-Mobile (US), Rogers, Telus, Bell, O2, and Vodafone) all support carrier billing. As seen before, users are far more likely to make purchases if carrier billing is supported. On average, purchases are 2.7 times more likely if carrier billing is supported then if it is not.

The measurements in this chart are relative to the number of purchases at Verizon Wireless (our selected baseline), such that Verizon would always have a value of 1.00. The number of purchases is based upon purchases of Pixelated Plus from July-September 2012. Normalization for carrier size was based on data from the free application Pixelated over the same time period. All data was collected through BlackBerry AppWorld at the time of download.

Impressed by the Invocation Framework

Coming out of BlackBerry Jam Americas, the thing that has impressed me most has been the invocation framework. While the feature had been announced earlier, it had not actually been available to developers until last week’s release of 10.0.9.xxx and this also seems to be the first time that details of the implementation were widely seen.

(For more on the invocation framework see Kevin Cheung’s article at CrackBerry and Shadid Haque’s presentation at BlackBerry Jam in San Jose.)

First some history of the feature. BlackBerry added the net.rim.blackberry.api.invoke.Invoke class to their classic OS with the release of version 4.0 (years before I started doing BlackBerry development) which would allow an app to programmatically start another app along with some command line arguments. While this was powerful, everything you did felt a bit like a hack, and it required you to know exactly which app you wanted to launch, and would only do so in a separate app (perhaps messing up what this other app was already doing). Android improved on this slightly with their Intents framework that allowed apps to register as being able to handle given types so that the calling application doesn’t technically need to know all of the details about the app that is being called.

BlackBerry 10 keeps the idea of being able to register for types, but adds the concept of cards, so that new applications can be invoked without appearing to be new applications. Instead the invoked app just shows up as a ‘card’ which to the user appears to be nothing more than a new page in the same app (even though it is being generated by a different app). This keeps everything on the same stack (what the developers at RIM would refer to as ‘flow’). This results in a less fractured user experience, ensures that the user finishes their work with the card before returning to your app, and allows for the app to be launched in parallel with the app that is generating the card (and with other cards generated by that same app). Cards can also me nested, which would result in a very confusing experience, if not for the fact that it appears to the user, as if it is all part of a single application.

This is an innovation that will be difficult to show off to consumers (as its main feature is that it works while staying out of the way), but it is very exciting to developers, and it will make BlackBerry 10, just that much better.