Windows Phone 7 A2DP

Last night, I was feeling a little frustrated with the Scala Rider not performing as I would have expected. With the lack of audio control via speech for Windows Phone 7 as per my post Windows Phone 7 Speech I was trying out the music playback on the Scala Rider by starting the music prior to putting on all my biker clobber. Unfortunatly, the VOX voice activation of the Scal Rider was detecting me grumbling and coughing under the helmet as speech and promplty pausing the music playback. The Scala Rider then waits for 30 seconds of silence before resuming the playback (this is in case there is a gap in conversation).

This isn’t a problem in theory, however when the Scala Rider is activated by VOX, it actually temporarily drops the Bluetooth connection to the phone. Be it the fault of the Scala or Windows Phone 7, I’m yet to determine, but it seems that if the VOX feature stays active for a short while, plus the 30 second wait timer, that the Bluetooth connection to the phone is actually lost.

Option 1 was to disable the VOX feature of the Scala whilst I’m riding solo and then remember to turn it back of when I have the wife with me pillion, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having an all singing all dancing product like this.

Option 2 was RTFM in case that turned up something useful on the topic.

I went with Option 2 for now and read the manual for the Scala Rider and discovered that it supports A2DP remote commands which means that through button presses on the Scala Rider, I can start and stop playback and also skip and replay tracks on the phone. I tried these out and it appears that Windows Phone 7 fully supports all of these operations.

I’m still to get to the bottom of my disconnect issue, but in the mean time, knowing that Windows Phone 7 supports these remote commands means that I can force the Scala Rider to reconnect to the phone and then start playback whilst riding.

Windows Phone 7 Speech

Windows Phone 7 has some really nice voice control and speech recognition features such as the ability to transcribe text messages and even reply to or write new messages to people in your contacts but to name one of the features. I’ve used the text messaging speech control on a couple of occasions in the car, but only really by fluke due to the fact that I had my phone connected to the car for playing music at the time.

You can read the official Microsoft page on speech control at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-us/howto/wp7/get-started-speech.aspx.

I’ve never really been a big speech or voice control user, let alone a fan. I don’t spend a lot of time travelling in the car and typically, my phone is with me, on my person, so I use my hands as after all, that big touch screen on the HTC HD7 is made for them.

As a Christmas gift, I bought my wife and me a Scala Rider Q2 Multiset Pro (http://www.cardosystems.com/scala-rider/scala-rider-q2-multiset), which is a helmet mounted voice activated rider to pillion (and bike to bike) communication system, but it also triples as an FM Radio and a Bluetooth headset, allowing me to connect my phone and satnav device to it so that I can get handsfree Bluetooth calls or music whilst riding and get satnav directions through the helmet.

I fitted my Scala Rider unit to my helmet yesterday and thought I would have a play with some of the speech controls of my Windows Phone as I would be using some of them now via the helmet.

The call commands are pretty intuitive and what you would expect: Call is the opening command  followed by the name of the person and optionally which number to call them on. For example, call Richard Green Work would dial my work number. If you omit the work, home or mobile command, then the phone will prompt you for which number to dial if you have multiple numbers for a given contact.

The text command is pretty simple too: Text is the opening command followed by the name of the person. You will then be prompted to start speaking your message. Once you’re done, the phone will read back the transcript and if you’re happy with it, you can say Send, or you can say Try Again to start over if it misheard you. On the receiving side, when you receive an incoming text, the phone will announce that you have a new message and the name of the contact whom it is from and you are given the option to have it read out loud and then reply if you wish.

The application commands, again are simple and intuitive, and herein lies the problem. Saying Open followed by the name of an application of feature on the phone and it will do so, for example Open Zune will open the Music and Videos Hub (renamed from the Zune Hub pre-Mango update). You can say Open Music and Videos too, but why would you when you can just say Zune? This works for any application, including third-party ones, so I can say Open Sky News or Open Endomondo and the app will promptly open, however this is where it ends.

Once the Music and Videos Hub is open, there is no way to start playing music, play a particular artist, a playlist or anything.

I love my Windows Phone as anyone remotely close to me will tell you. The style of it, the ease of use and the way it gives me the data I want quickly and easy to read with those big blocks of bold colour, but most of all, my passion for all things Microsoft, but this is one area that flops.

What is the purpose of being able to open an application on the phone via speech if you then can’t control the application beyond that? I know that Microsoft can’t be expected or even be able to implement deep level interoperability for speech control for third party applications because Microsoft have no understanding of the function and purpose of the applications or code used to make those applications function (beyond the actual language used), but a deep rooted part of the operating system such as music, messaging and phone should be there out of the box.

Ignoring the new Siri functionality on the iPhone 4S which is different to what I’m covering here – Just the core platform controls, and an iPhone user can dictate to the phone to shuffle all music, play a particular album, artist or playlist which is what you need. Going back to my original statement, I’ve never been a big speech user, this one-up-manship for the iPhone didn’t phase me, however with my shift in needs, it does.

Now, in my circumstances, the phone is safely inside my backpack while I’m riding, so touching the phone to operate it isn’t even remotely viable. If I wanted to listen to music on the road, I would have to start the music playing before I get all my gloves and other gear on so that it’s already rolling before I’m rolling. If I want to stop the music for any reason, I need to take off, at a minimum, my gloves and backpack so that I can get into the bag to stop it. If I’m on the subject of music on Windows Phone, why is the music volume linked to the system volume? There should be separate control for the music and system volumes, as well as a separate control for the ringtone volume, however that’s a separate rant.

I still prefer my Windows Phone to any iPhone offering, because it does what I want, how I want it (except for this one occasion), however on this occasion, I do envy those owners. I’ve read multiple rumours about speech operation in Windows Phone 7 Tango update rumoured to be coming in 2012 which will bring the speech more inline with that seen in Siri, however for me, now, this can’t come soon enough.

Whats Missing in the Lync Client for Windows Phone 7

Microsoft Lync is one of those fantastic products that I yearn for. It cross cuts the entire communication eco-system and gives you fantastic integration across the Microsoft stack including SharePoint and the Office application suite, however much to my dismay we don’t use Lync in my place of work and instead use the mediocre Cisco CUCM. To this end, my only experiences with Lync in a real-world ‘anger’ situations are when participating in calls hosted by other companies using Lync, Microsoft themselves being the main player for me.

For a long time now, there has been speculation of a Lync Client for Windows Phone 7 being released and this week it finally hit the marketplace not only for Windows Phone 7, but also for Apple iOS devices, Android and Symbian.

The app looks great in the screenshots, showing the features on offer well, however one huge feature is missing for me. The ability to use the app as a Lync Attendee Client: See Lync offers two different clients. The full blown corporate use client and the Lync Attendee Client. If you use Lync in a corporate scenario you will have the full client, however if you are like me and only use Lync to participate in sessions hosted by others, you use the lighter Lync Attendee Client which doesn’t require credentials and is designed around guest access.

Sadly, the Lync Client app for the mobile handsets released this week is only suitable for full client use scenarios as told by the app guidance notes in the Windows Phone Marketplace:

IMPORTANT: Microsoft Lync 2010 for Windows Phone requires a Lync Server or Office365/Lync Online account and will not work without it. If you are unsure about your account status, please contact your IT department.

He being me, I decided to install the app and try it anyway, but sadly the prescribed guidance was correct. This was a sucker-punch to me, and I think it will limit somewhat the ability for people to use the Lync Client. My only hope is that a separate client is released which does give you the ability to participate in Lync sessions as a guest.

If you are lucky enough to use Lync in a full deployment, you can get the app for Windows Phone 7 from http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/apps/9ce93e51-5b35-e011-854c-00237de2db9e.

What Does the Windows Live SkyDrive App Do For You?

Personally, not a lot in a nutshell.

This post comes off the back of the announcement today from Microsoft of the release of a Windows Live SkyDrive app for Windows Phone 7 and Apple iOS devices. You can read the post for yourself in full from http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_live/b/windowslive/archive/2011/12/13/introducing-skydrive-for-iphone-and-windows-phone.aspx.

For Windows Phone 7, I don’t see the application providing a whole lot that isn’t already available through the Pictures and Office Hubs integrated into Windows Phone. Sure, it does have a few new features that aren’t previously available like the ability to share links to your documents or pictures and gives you the ability to create new folders within your SkyDrive account, but that’s it for the new stuff.

iOS device users get more because they currently have zero SkyDrive integration, but that still doesn’t give you integration, just functionality. For iOS device users, you could say that it does actually give them a lot more than a nothing nutshell, but obviously what I write is focused on Microsoft technologies (in case you didn’t guess from all my previous posts).

For me what would be a serious leap in the usability and resourcefulness of Windows Live SkyDrive would be the consolidation of Windows Live Mesh (previously Windows Live Sync and Microsoft Live Mesh as two separate projects) and SkyDrive, or the release of a SkyDrive desktop client. DropBox and many other online file repository sites have desktop clients allowing you download, upload, sync and use all of your content across your desktops, laptops and mobile devices, however SkyDrive and Mesh are currently flawed.

Windows Live Mesh allows you to sync files to your desktop with a desktop client, and allows you to sync that content across multiple devices including the ability to sync between Windows PC and Mac, however it is limited to 5GB and although the application and the Windows Live Mesh web interface state that the storage is based on Windows Live SkyDrive, the folders and content are isolated and not interoperable.

Consolidating the storage pools in Windows Live Mesh and Windows Live SkyDrive would allow you to sync content between iOS devices, Mac, Windows PC and Windows Phone which would be utterly living the dream. All of this of course is overlooking the additional features of Windows Live Mesh already available today including the ability to sync Internet Explorer favourites and Office Outlook signatures, Office styles and templates and custom dictionaries.

Just imagine for one moment: The ability to sync all of your documents and pictures to all of your devices both desktop, portable and pocket, and have changes to those documents automatically replicated to all your other devices, have your standard email signature available on all your devices to provide you with a truly unified front when sending and responding to email communiqué, all whilst having your own shorthand, TLAs and words available in the dictionary saving you countless autocorrect issues on your mobile device?

Migrating Saved Games to Xbox 360 Cloud Saved Games

So you’ve been playing on your Xbox 360 for sometime and you’ve built up a collection of saved games, all stored locally on your consoles hard drive. You’ve heard about the new Cloud Saved Games feature in the new Xbox dashboard update and want to be able to transfer (move, migrate, whatever you want to call it) your existing saves there for anywhere access?

The process is fairly painless and easy to complete, however it would have been nice if it was automated as part of enabling the Cloud Saved Games service. There is a gotcha to be careful of, but once you take it into account it’s plain sailing.

First off, you need to enable the Cloud Saved Games feature. You can do this by following my previous post Enabling Xbox 360 Cloud Saved Games at http://richardjgreen.net/2011/12/08/enabling-xbox-360-cloud-saved-games/.

Once you have enabled the Cloud Saved Games feature, do the following:

  1. Navigate to the Settings tab and select System.
  2. From System, select Storage, and from Storage, select Hard Drive to see the locally saved content.
  3. Within Hard Drive, select Games and Apps.
  4. Highlight a game that you want to migrate to the Cloud Saved Games service, and Press Y (Game Options).
  5. From Game Options, select the Move option, whereby you will be presented with a list of available storage devices. Select Cloud Saved Games and your game saves will be migrated across.

The migration process will detect the files which are game saves and the files which are updates, DLC and other non-save content. Using Forza Motorsport 4 as an example, with the installed files, it uses 3.3GB of hard disk space, however with a 500MB limit on your Cloud Saved Games service, you will obviously not be able to store all of this online. Fortunately, because the save files are detected for you, only the 20-30MB save file is actually moved.

This does mean that if you roam onto a friend or another persons console without that game already installed (and you have taken your game disc with you to play on) you will have to install the content first, but being able to have you save follow you is what is important and useful here.

The gotcha I mentioned earlier is relating to multi-player consoles. In my household, the wife and the kids use the console too. In my case, Dance Central 2 has saves for four people within it. Select the Move option against the ensure Dance Central 2 container would migrate everyone’s save to my cloud and would also grant me ownership of those saves, preventing the others access to their own saves.

In these instances, you will need to do the following:

  1. Drill into the game itself by selecting it with the A button.
  2. Highlight your own personal save file (the save file will show the Gamertag of the player on the right beneath the file size) and select it with the A button.

You will now have an option to move the save to the Cloud Saved Games service and this will only move your own save without effecting those of other players. I’m hoping that a future update might resolve this gotcha and will allow it to detect the ownership of other saves and as such, only move your own personal files, but time will tell on this one.

Enabling Xbox 360 Cloud Saved Games

One of the new features included with the Xbox 360 Dashboard update this week is the ability to store your saved games in the new Cloud Saved Games service. The service is free to Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers and allows you up to 500MB of storage for your game saves.

Enabling the feature is simple and is done as follows:

  1. Login to your console using your Windows Live ID (Xbox LIVE Gamertag).
  2. Scroll to the Settings tab on the new dashboard, and select System Settings.
  3. Within System Settings, select Storage.
  4. From Storage, highlight Cloud Saved Saves and Press Y on the controller (Device Options).
  5. Select Enable Cloud Saved Games.

You’re done.

Unfortunately, this feature isn’t enabled by default for Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers, which I think that it should be, and I also think that as part of the dashboard update, you should be prompted upon first login if you want to migrate your saves to the Cloud, however it’s possible this may come in a later update?

With the shoe on the other foot however, I can see Microsoft’s dilemma. Storage isn’t free in the cloud (contrary to the belief of many). Disabling the feature by default and not automatically prompting people to use the service allows them to under provision storage reducing cost, because your local hard disk doesn’t cost Microsoft anything compared to Cloud storage.

Although the Cloud Saved Games feature has been advertised by people like Major Distortion and other people online, I think it’s been pretty under-played compared to the dashboard update itself, or the Xbox Companion App for Windows Phone 7 and iOS. It’s a shame, because the feature is really powerful and adds a new dimension to console, being able to ‘carry your saves around with you’.