When Written: June 2014
The development tools have improved out of all recognition as well, and this makes building Apps economically viable for most developers. On this note I am itching to get the latest mobile App development tools from Microsoft onto my work machine. To do this I need to be running Windows 8.1 and not 7 as I am currently. Now I hadn’t upgraded before because things can and often do, break with development environments with Operating System changes, but now is the time.
But I hit a problem. There is no upgrade from Windows 7 to 8! Now Microsoft will sell you an upgrade disc or Action Pack or MSDN subscription images will allow you to do an ‘upgrade’ but the only choice this gives you, is for it to either leave your own files on the disc or to erase them, you can kiss bye bye to all your installed programs and settings option is chosen, a reinstall of all your programs is necessary! In my book this is not an upgrade but a reinstall from scratch! I am waiting for a reply from Microsoft on why they can’t offer a better upgrade experience, but based on previous experience I doubt I’ll get an answer.
I shall have to leave this change of Operating System for a quiet time workwise, or perhaps I could install it on a new machine and treat myself to a nice new powerful Chillblast laptop (http://www.chillblast.com/Chillblast-photo-oc-mobile.html) like the one Anna, my business partner has just bought and keeps making rather worrying purring and appreciative noises from time to time. Not one to boast but my desktop machine has the equivalent of 12 processors and 16G of RAM and I’m very pleased with its performance, but this laptop has 8 processors and 16G of Ram for just over than a grand! It is a fantastic machine for photo and video editing, but I still need my three monitors for work, ‘what’s that?’ this laptop is driving two extra monitors along with its own screen, hmm I’m not jealous honestly. Time to talk to our accounts lady to see what state the piggy bank is in.
Chillblast Laptop, lust-able and well priced, my next purchase?
The reason that this current App that I am developing is not being distributed onto the Windows Phone platform is simply because the OS does not have a SQLite database built in and this is critical for the offline storage that the App uses. When developing in this fast moving world of web technologies it can be difficult to know what is best to do. Do you write a different version of your App for a particular platform with all the issues of support that that can bring, or do you use one code base but with conditional code depending on the different platforms, this can also make support tricky but at least it is a more manageable solution, or do you wait for the platform to add the functionality your App requires, after all it could be just around the corner.
What is required is a crystal ball. Now as working versions of these devices are few and far between, whilst Firefox and Chrome are fairly transparent about forthcoming changes with developer builds available, Microsoft have always been more secretive about what was coming in the next version of IE. Now Microsoft have come up with a way of involving the developer community in the development of IE and a better way of keeping them informed. Much better for Microsoft to spend time developing the enhancements that developers need rather than features that they think that they might need. To achieve this they have released a developer’s version of IE with the forthcoming technologies included in it so that developers can test their code against the next version. This developer version of the browser will be updated much more regularly as new features are developed before they are added to the ‘public’ build of IE. Thankfully you can install and run this version alongside the regular version of IE 11 on your PC. If you visit http://devchannel.modern.ie/ you can even participate in the conversation of what should be in the next version of IE, although rumours that anyone suggesting Firefox should be added will be immediately banned are yet to be proved!
Run the Developer version of IE alongside the shipping version
To install this developer version and if you are running Windows 7 then you may also need to download PowerShell 3 and of course .NET 4.0. This developer’s version currently looks very similar to the regular version with most of the visible changes being in the developers tools accessed with F12. One interesting enhancement is the addition of WebDriver, this is a method of allowing developers to automate the browser for testing and returning performance and debugging information. It is early days on this and most development tools do not support it but they will.
The graphics capabilities of IE have also been increased with further improvements to the WebGL renderer, with better performance and the addition of features like instancing where one object can be created and then this can be cloned thousands of times, great if you want to render a forest but there are other uses of this technology. Whilst these changes are mainly of concern to games developers it will also make it possible to consider running visualisation web Apps on mobile devices. The more power and capability the browser gets the more will be possible by programming in it, but it is important that the mobile versions of the browsers are just as capable as their desktop cousins otherwise we will be back to a whole pile of developing issues.
The more standards compliant these devices are the better for all of us. Part of the same initiative is http://status.modern.ie/ and this shows the current status of the technologies that IE supports and from what version, again this can be very useful to check what you can use in your HTML5 App for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 as these apparently use exactly the same version of IE to the desktop.
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton