Moviequeue Released

Moviequeue logoWith the recent release of Bookqueue II, it was a good opportunity to bring a sister application online, Moviequeue.  Moviequeue follows its older sister’s objective and features of finding and queuing movies for reference and/or later viewing.  The application is integrated with Amazon Video for searching the Amazon video catalog and ability to filter based on online or physical movie media.

Features
– Find movies by type (Amazon Video, All Movies)
– Queued movies automatically added to your Queue shelf
– Manage movies across multiple shelves, such as Watching and Archive
– Sort and order moves by priority and title
– Add reminders for pre-release titles so you get notified on the date of its release
– Customize shelves by adding your own shelf title (for example, Fiction vs. Non-Fiction, Documentaries, etc.)
– Direct link to Amazon for full movie details
– Easily search similar movies for movie recommendations
– Find latest Bestsellers
– Synchronize your device movies to OneDrive for backup and/or sharing across devices

Platform Availability
Moviequeue is available for Windows 10 and Android via the Windows and Google Play app stores.

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Bookqueue II Released

Bookqueue II imageThe holidays brought a little downtime to get a long overdue successor to Bookqueue released to the store, Bookqueue II. The purpose of Bookqueue II remains the same as Bookqueue, queueing books for later, but the implementation has changed significantly which created a brand new version rather than an evolution of the original Bookqueue app.

What’s changed?
Bookqueue was optimized for Windows 8.x and Windows Phone 8.x.   Although application behavior was similar between the full desktop and phone, they were for all purposes treated as two (2) separate applications.
Bookqueue II is optimized for Windows 10 which provides a unified experience for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and other supported device types in the Windows 10 family.  The benefit this provides is a single application and experience across the Windows 10 desktop/laptop/tablet/mobile devices.

What about other platforms?
By community request, there is now a version of Bookqueue II available for Android.Get it on Google Play  Bookqueue II for Android will contain feature parity with the Windows versions of Bookqueue II, and provides queue synchronization across devices. This means that if you opt in for synchronization  to your OneDrive storage, Bookqueue II for Android and Bookqueue II for Windows will be able to synchronize and share books across devices.

Running both Bookqueue and Bookqueue II
As Bookqueue and Bookqueue II are independent applications, they can be run side-by-side on supported systems, such as Windows 10.  The recommendation is to choose the version that fits your devices best.  If Bookqueue II is an option, it contains an ‘import’ feature that allows you to copy your current Bookqueue books (and shelf associations) to Bookqueue II.  You can then use Bookqueue II from that point forward.  The ‘import’ feature is not a synchronization, so you can run it multiple times without risk of deleting any books queued in Bookqueue or Bookqueue II.
Note: You cannot synchronize books across Bookqueue (original) and Bookqueue II (latest) as the synchronization feature is independent between them.

What’s next?
As Bookqueue II is a new implementation it does not have feature parity with Bookqueue.  I will be closing the gap between the two (2) versions and will be adding new capabilities to Bookqueue II going forward.  If you have a feature request, please feel free to contact me: torben.pedersen@outlook.com, always appreciate the feedback.

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Librarians and Bots

It’s been a while and time to get going again! Been looking into Bots which has recently been a conversation topic of Facebook and Microsoft.
LibrarianBot
The underlying idea is that a Bot could be used as an assistant to help answer or do different tasks on your behalf. Looking at the history of Bookqueue it made me consider what is one of the primary capabilities of the application, searching for books. Before we had Personal PC’s, I would go the Library for a similar capability and ask my local librarian if she could find a book for me. Hence, the birth of the LibrarianBot.

Take it for trial run and ask it some questions you would have asked your librarian before the Personal PC:

'Find books by George R. Martin'
'Lookup ISBN 1439501661'


Should you get stuck, try entering ‘help’ to get instructions of phrases the bot can understand. Give it a try and please leave your feedback.

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LiveSDK.Android – a Xamarin library for accessing SkyDrive

skydrive logoI have recently been looking closer into  cross-platform development and found myself rooted in Xamarin.  The first adventure is Xamarin.Android and porting Bookqueue to the Android environment.  Microsoft has made accessing SkyDrive simple with its LiveSDK for Android.  To help make the native java libraries available to .NET, Xamarin has provided a nice Android Java Binding library that allows creation of runtime callable wrappers.

My first dive into this adventure went pretty smooth and is available at GitHub – LiveSDK.Android

 

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Sort directions available for Bookqueue for Windows

Bookqueue for Windows has been updated to allow changing sort directions based on primary view (Author, Title, Publication Date).  Also, the book tile will include the publication date for visual cue to the Date sort direction.

Bookqueue Sort Direction

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Barcode scanner added to Bookqueue for Windows Phone

Bookqueue for Windows Phone v3.2 is now available in the Windows Phone Store.
This version adds barcode scanning support from the Find Book page.

Find Book via Scan

Once on the barcode scanning page, place the camera view finder over the barcode and the application will auto-scan the barcode.

Bookqueue Barcode Scan

Note: the search filter format (Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, etc.) will be ignored when using the barcode scanner in order to find the correct book (Hardcover/Paperback).  I may be adding support for changing formats of queued books at a later time.  This would allow scanning a paperback but queue the book in a Kindle format.

Credits: Barcode scanning made possible with ZXing.Net library.

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Using Bing News and Windows Azure as a News Solution

The purpose of this post is to illustrate the news customization of Bing News in Windows and how it can be paired with Windows Azure as a content source.  The result is a powerful aggregation of news sources personalized to me and available across my Windows 8 devices.

Digital news come from a variety of sources and formats today spanning news companies to corporate bloggers and twitter feeds.  With the proliferation of device options and application stores, we, the recipients of news often utilize a diverse set of readers ranging from web browsers to specialty purposed apps that are accessible across our devices.  Prior to Windows 8, I used to have a list of URLs for my favorite news and blogging sites and combined them in mash-up on my.msn.com.  It worked but it was a little bit of a clutter as my news feeds were intermixed with my stock feeds, sports scores, etc.  What I really wanted was a single place with a single purpose for my various content, such as news.

The Microsoft News application for Windows, aka Bing News, is one of these specialty purposed applications focused on aggregation and single pane presentation of news across data sources.  Bing News comes with a standard set of news sources covering over a hundred (100) popular sources.  This allows me to customize the presentation surface to only include the sources of interest to me.  However, the data source options for Bing News does not end there, the Bing team provided an extensibility option to consume data from any RSS feed.  It is this capability that opens Bing News up to aggregating data from more personalized news feeds, such as Blogs.  I am now able to use a single News application to pull my own news sources together.

BingNewsSolution

Bing News

To illustrate the RSS integration capabilities of Bing News, let’s start with a small example from a known data source.  For example, at Microsoft several product groups have team and personal blogs as a means to communicate product information to the public audience.  One of the team blogs that I subscribe to is from the Windows team and is called, Blogging Windows

BloggingWindows

In order for me to read Blogging Windows along with my other daily news I can include the RSS feed link for Blogging Windows as a new Section in Bing News.

BloggingWindowsRSS

With the RSS feed URL copied to the clipboard, I turn to Bing News and customize it for a new section.  Right-Click/Swipe Down from edge to get the Customize button in Bing News.

BingNewsCustomize

Add a new Section to Bing News

BingNewsAddSection

Paste the RSS Url to search for and add the data source

BingNewsEnterUrl

Blogging Windows RSS feed is now available in-lined with my other news sources.

BingNewsWithAddedSection

Done.
This works great as I now have a single view into my daily news interests.  An additional benefit of Windows 8’s roaming settings, is that the customization I just made to Bing News on my laptop now follows my profile and shows the same news sources on my Windows tablets.
Now reversing the roles and taking on the responsibility of a news provider, I now have a client platform that I can contribute to as long as I can provide an RSS feed for my content.  Take the scenario where I have a written a small App called, Bookqueue, and would like to promote it to users interested in knowing what comes next and provide them the ability to give feedback.  Based on this scenario I have identified the following requirements:

1) Provide news updates for the Bookqueue App
2) Present news in RSS format (for inclusion to Bing News)
3) Allow users to comment on the news

There are many options available to satisfy these requirements, but for my needs I looked to a blogging platform that would fulfill all of these in one, WordPress.  With that solution in mind, I also needed an infrastructure to host WordPress and looked to Windows Azure.

Windows Azure

Windows Azure is an open and flexible cloud platform that enables you to quickly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters.  One of the capabilities that exists in Windows Azure is a Gallery of website templates that allows users to quickly provision turn-key solutions, including WordPress.
After having created my Azure account, I accessed the Windows Azure management portal to create a new web site.

Create a new Windows Azure Web Site from Gallery

AzureWebSiteFromGallery

Select WordPress as the web site template

AzureWordPressWebApp

It took Azure about a minute to provision the web site and configure it with WordPress.  Once completed, I was able to browse the WordPress administration site and configure my blogging environment.

WordPress administration page running in Windows Azure

WordPressAdministration

I added a couple of blog entries for news samples.

WordPressBlogEntries

Once my blog was completed, I followed the similar process as above for getting Blogging Windows’ newsfeed into Bing News by locating the RSS URL for the blog entries and adding it as a new section to Bing News.

WordPressRssSubscription

Add Section to Bing News and Voila!

WordPressBingNews

Summary

To summarize, Bing News provides an extensible news reader that allows for a personalized News experiences across the content of interest to me.  As a content provider, understanding the news reader capabilities also allowed me to easily distribute news to my readers by exposing my information from a RSS based repository such as WordPress hosted in Windows Azure.  Hope this was helpful in creating your own personalized News experience.

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