Posts Tagged 'Smartphone'

October 8, 2011

Smart Phones: Technology Replacing Contact?

So much of our life has been moved to digital devices these days. Smart phones are one of many devices that have made an impression on our lives. Smart phones these days have become a must for most, whether it is for business or personal use, almost everyone has one.

On the plus side, smart phones enable users to conduct business from just about anywhere in the world. Access to email accounts, VPNs and other tools that make business move on a daily basis have become accessible from the palm of your hand. You can even administer your web server from your smart phone with the right application setup.

You're carrying a small computer around in your pocket. It'll be interesting to see what new devices will emerge in the market in the next few years. Tablets are becoming wildly popular, and mainstream consumers are starting to keep an eye on the newest innovations, joining the "tech geeks" in the "early adopter" line.

There are several players in this market with Google, RIM and Apple leading the pack, and dedicated fans rally behind each. With smart phones becoming so increasingly common, I've started wondering if it's really for the best. Do we really need to check our e-mail every 10 minutes? If we're not on Twitter, Facebook or one of our other social networks, will they be there when we get to our computer?

Being digitally connected all the time give us a false sense of "socializing" in the old school face-to-face sense, and that pull us away from those IRL (in real life) encounters. Numerous crashes have been caused by people texting or updating their statuses while driving, and there have been cases of people walking into a busy street while being distracted by their phones.

When it comes to technology like smart phones, how do you keep those devices from becoming a dependency? How do you keep yourself from letting them take the place of direct human contact rather? It's something to think about as technology continues to evolve and permeate our lives.

-James

September 28, 2011

A Whole New World: SoftLayer on Windows Phone 7

As SLayers, our goal is always to bring creativity in every aspect of work we do at SoftLayer. It was not too long ago when the Interface Development team was presented with a new and exciting challenge: To develop a Windows Phone 7 Series app. Like me, many questioned whether we should tap into the market of Windows Phone OS ... What was the scope of this OS? What is the future of Windows Phone OS smartphones? The business relationship that NOKIA and Microsoft signed to produce smartphones with Windows Phone 7 OS will provide consumers with a new interface and unique features, so smartphone users are paying attention ... And we are too.

The SoftLayer Mobile world had already made huge strides with iPhone and Android based apps, so our work was cut out for us as we entered the Windows Phone 7 world. We put together a small, energetic and skilled group of SLayers who wanted to make SoftLayer proud, and I am proud to be a member of that team!

Our focus was to design and develop an application that would not only provide the portal functionality on mobile phone but also incorporate the awesome features of Windows Phone 7. Keeping all that in consideration, the choice of using an enterprise quality framework was essential. After a lot of research, we put our finger on the Microsoft's Patterns and Practices-backed Prism Framework for Windows Phone 7. The Prism Framework is a well-known and recognized name among Silverlight and Windows Presentation Framework developers, and since Windows Phone 7 is built upon the Silverlight and XNA Framework, our choice was clearly justified.

After selecting the framework, we wanted to make the whole asynchronous experience smooth while talking to SoftLayer's mobile API. That' where we met the cool kid on the block: Reactive Extensions for .NET (also known as Rx). The Rx is a library used to compose asynchronous and event-based programs. The learning curve was pretty intense for the team, but we operate under the mantra of CBNO (Challenging-But-Not-Overwhelming), so it was learning we knew would bear fruits.

The team's plan was to create an app that had the most frequently used features from the portal. The features to be showcased in the first release were to be basic but at the same time essential. The features we pinpointed were ticket management, hardware management, bandwidth and account management. Bringing these features to the phone posed a challenge, though ... How do we add a little more spice to what cold be a rather plain and basic app?

Windows Phone 7 controls came to our rescue and we utilized the Pivot and Panorama controls to design the Ticket Lists and Ticket Details. The pivot control works like a tabbed-style control that is viewable by sliding left or right. This lets us put the ticket-based-categories in a single view so users don't have to navigate back-and-forth to see different types of tickets. It also provides context-menu style navigation by holding onto the ticket item, giving an option to view or edit ticket with one tap. Here is a screen shot of pivot control in use to view tickets by categories and device list:

Win7 Phone Screen

Another achievement was made by using the panorama control. The control works like a long page with different relevant sections of similar content. This control was used to show a snap shot of a ticket, and the view displays basic ticket details, updates, attachments and any hardware attached to a ticket. This makes editing a ticket as easy as a tap! This is a screenshot of panorama control in use to view ticket detail:

Win7 Phone Screen

The device list view will help people see the dedicated and virtual devices in a pivot control giving a visual distinction. The list can be searched by tapping on the filter icon at the application bar. The filtering is search-as-you-type style and can be turned off by tapping the icon again. This screenshot shows the device list with a filtering option:

Win7 Phone Screen

To perform further hardware operations like pinging, rebooting and power cycling the server, you can use the hardware detail view as well. The bandwidth view may not be as flashy, but it's a very useful representation of a server's bandwidth information. Charting is not available with this release but will be available in the upcoming releases.

If you own a Windows Phone 7 device, go ahead and download "SoftLayer Mobile" and send us the feedback on what features you would like to see next and most importantly whether you love this app or not. We have and will always strive for excellence, and we know there's always room to improve!

-Imran

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