Sunday, 20 April 2014

Getting Cortana to work in Australia

Encase you haven’t heard – Windows Phone 8.1 is now available free to developers.  This version is not the final version and there are various warning about installing it.

Blah blah blah….

Okay, maybe like me you got excited about installing the latest shiny on your Lumia windows phone. 

I signup for a free developer account and then installed windows phone 8.1 on my Lumia 720. I had about 3 updates prior to actually getting to actual the 8.1 update – be warned.

Cool.  Okay nice notification centre.
Changed the background image thing with the home page… cool.

Where is Cortana?  DOH.  I hate being a second class citizen to the USA.  Turns out this is another case of if you aren’t in the united states then we don’t care (that’s what it feels like anyway).

Fine.  I will pretend to be an American.  Changed the region and language to United States.  Restarted.  No Cortana still !!!!

Okay so I stopped crying and went to bed as it was rather late by the time I managed to update to 8.1.  I figured some Googling in the morning would reveal the obvious problem.

Read this article outline the steps required to get it working in the UK.

That’s when I found the missing step. In the settings > Language make sure English (United States) is ABOVE English (United Kingdom).  To move it above press and hold to get a context menu and choose to ‘Move Up’.

A restart was then required and there was the lovely Cortana Icon in the applications list.

So to recap:

  • Under Settings > Region - Select ‘United States’
  • Under Settings > Language – Add ‘English (United States)
  • Once installed make sure the United States version of English is above the United Kingdom version in the Language settings.

Some side effects:

Bing News will no longer report your local news.  It will be United States news.
Cortana will report the weather in Fahrenheit not Celsius.

Good luck and I hope you get it too work on your phone too.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Finally – Windows Phone 8.1 supports Podcasts!

As a web developer I am always learning and one of my favourite ways to learn is listening to podcasts.  I have been a windows phone user for the last 4 years and I have always been disappointed with the podcast experience in Australia.

Well I’m glad to say that the latest version of Windows Phone (8.1) finally supports podcasts as first class citizens.  Mind you I’ve yet to confirm this on my actual phone. 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Overzealous Security - Password Pain

I was just registered to comment on a website and my simple password (9 characters two alpha 6 numbers and 1 special char) was rejected as being too insecure.

It needs to have at least one Uppercase letter apparently.


What are you protecting here? I just wanted to post a comment – not open a bank account.

Plus, why if I signup with twitter do you want basically access to EVERYTHING?


Wow I’m glad that they don’t get my twitter password at least!

Monday, 7 April 2014

To disavow or not to disavow

I just got an email from zoho asking that I remove or change a link to no-follow because some Google algorithm decided that the link was unnatural.  Sigh. 

The link is natural, I wrote the article.  I wasn’t paid anything.  No shady link buying business.  This is just getting silly.

I removed the link, I’m not going to cause the poor guy emailing me a lot of grief, but I think that this is going too far.

What do you think?

The Current state of Affairs in Cloud NoSQL

In my previous projects I have found a strong preference to avoid a Traditional SQL database backend.  Too often the impedance mismatch simply costs too much when rapidly iterating a design.  Going with a schema less design is fantastic and frankly really hard to give up.

My last major project was meant to be a ‘internet scale’ service - which basically needed to be able to handle vast traffic increases without falling to pieces (I cringe just reading that sentence!).  Yes – it was one of those projects and I should have jumped out of the boat upon hearing the expectations!)

Moving on…

Early versions of the service were built on the newly launched Azure Table Storage.  I ended up not waiting for the Secondary Indexes (Good thing too because that feature, promised in 2009, is still missing 5 years later!) and made a hybrid SQL / Table combination.  It appeared good on paper and it was seen as a good compromise.

The problem came from the cost of maintaining my indexes for search etc.. Basically I found I was simply working at too low a level of abstraction and trying to hide the underlining implementation was just adding too much mess in my projects.

6 months later the code was ditched and a more traditional standalone database server was adopted.

This all happened a while ago and those design decisions are fairly set in stone.

Fast forward to today and I am once again checking out what is new in cloud land for a new project.  I am surprised by Azure’s apparent lack of care for their NoSQL table storage solution.  It seems, in my opinion, that they are chasing the brown field projects more than new ‘green field’ ones. 

I don’t have any stats for this but maybe the real problem with proprietary NoSQL solutions is that developers are shy about lock-in.  I know it is something that I worry about.  Can I move my service/web site out of this cloud and into another?



Google’s Cloud Services

I don’t know how I missed all of the cloud services Google is currently offering.  They have a NoSQL database which apparently launched in 2013.  I guess I have been in Microsoft Land for too long.

Some Feature Highlights:

  • Auto Scale
  • Schema less
  • SQL-Like Querying
  • ACID
  • Redundancy (geo-replicated)
  • REST Interface
  • Very affordable pricing (at least it appears to be)

Some early questions/concerns:

Nuget packages for C# don’t indicate a lot of C# users


Can I store JSON documents? Does it support Full Text Search? Is there LINQ support for querying?