Xbox - 28 September 2011
Author: Jim Szymanski

 

EngineRebuild1

While my Mango update was relatively painless (Mango, Mango Beta cleanup & HTC Firmware) last night, it’s what I had to do later that kept me up to the wee hours, although I did get to bed before the birds woke, which is always a priority (more like a challenge). You see, back when I installed the first Mango beta, the (licensed) developer unlock status on my phone ceased. Something to do with Vista 64 bit machines and an incompatibility, that was never addressed by Microsoft (too many other things going on I guess). So while I have enjoyed Mango (beta) goodness the past few months I lost the ability to side load apps, not that there were really any to side load anyway. Aside from that, I sample a bunch of applications which always leave some residue behind, so figured it was a good time for a fresh start. Settings/System/About/Reset Your Phone/Yes/Yes again, and it was done.

Having hard reset my Surround four times since last November (3 planned, 1 not) I have pretty much got everything down to a science. One Note list of all my currently installed apps & games-check. Another One Note folder with lists for; Start Screen tiles, Speed Dial favorites, favorite radio stations, preferred RSS feeds, favorite web addresses, system settings, particular app preferences, etc.-check, check and check again. Backup data for all the apps that let you backup-done.

Even if I had a backup file for my device I would not have used it as I wanted my registry and folders to be uncluttered and clean. And honestly, I don’t need a backup for my photos, music and video. That’s what Zune sync is for. Nor do I need to backup my apps because they are all (well most) sitting in Marketplace. But those pesky settings, not to mention the data that we all treasure, gone forever, again.

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I might have my version numbers mixed up, but I believe the first time I went through this pain was upgrading from Word 2.0 to Office 95. Remembering, and then finding all of the icons I had previously setup in my toolbars was an unnecessary PITA. Sure, I am oversimplifying, but why can’t every app have a config file that gets saved, and restored after you have migrated to a new version or complete a reinstall? Would not take up much space and could occur automatically in the background. Would be a great selling point for migrating customers to new hardware (or rebuilding after that failed hard drive). Install your apps, and all your preferences can be easily moved to your new machine. I will openly admit that I am using Quicken 2004 to manage my accounts. Think I purchased 2008, but it is still in the wrapped package. After the 2004 install, the thought of figuring out how to get the toolbars setup just right on four different Quicken files was not worth it. One of those, “it just works things”. Call it lazy, but I call it making better use of my precious time.

Anyway, back on topic. After my earlier reset experiences, and without a viable backup solution for WP, I have tried to find data intense apps that provide their own backup solution and things went rather well last night. Not complaining, but none of my 135 apps and 30+ games auto-installed. Maybe it’s a new Mango thing. Not sure. In the past I wound up with a handful (maybe 20% of all my downloaded apps) of previously deleted apps or trial versions of eventually purchased apps. So while installing every app, one by one, was tedious it was probably easier to manage, although it still took several hours to install, enter credentials, setup, etc. But once you are finished, it all seems worth it, sort of.

Here is a list of apps where I was able to store data in the cloud and then retrieve. Might come in handy for your next hard reset or as you migrate to a new WP device.

CleverToDo – Although there have been comments about how this app is not as “pretty” as some of the other WP offerings, it works for me. Before my reset I logged on to my Dropbox account through the app and backed up my 20 something tasks. Your credentials are not stored within the app, so I needed to login again to restore my data, but it went as smooth as silk.

I’m a WP7 – Didn’t have to do anything here. The app “remembered” me, just as if it was a built-in application, like Zune Pass or Xbox Live. I believe it uses your Xbox Gamer Tag in your credentials. Sweet.

Notesly+ – This app has a Dropbox backup function which works nicely. Made sure I synced before the reset and everything was restored after entering my credentials. Great for short notes and lists that you can sync across multiple devices.

Pocket Files & Drop Notes – Not really backing up here, but both of these apps connect with Dropbox, providing access to your cloud files. Drop Notes specifically links to TXT files, while Pocket Files manages everything. Now that SkyDrive has become more accessible through the Office Hub, these apps may become less relevant, but still easier to navigate and create links to files.

Expiry Date Pro – While this app has got to have the ugliest live tile ever (probably about 5×5 pixels) it just works, and backs up too. Used for keeping track of expiration dates for; licenses, software registrations, Zune Pass, etc. Actually I forgot to look at the app before my reset and expected that I would need to track down the dozen entries I have made. But after opening I realized that the app did have a backup solution (when questioned, I think the dev said they use Azure or something like that). Although my backup was from June, nothing new had been added, so I was pleasantly surprised.

SkyWallet – The best electronic wallet app available for WP, period. After your reset, login with your SkyDrive ID and a few seconds later all of you precious password info is back on your phone. Brilliant. Make sure to sync before you reset, just in case you entered something recently.

And the not so good solutions.

Car Log – This app tracks your gas mileage/repair costs and has an option to export your data via email and then import back into the app via CSV. But the setup stinks, taking me a good 30+ minutes to restore about 40 lines of entries. The export is a comma delimited mess appended to the body of an email. You need to copy that into a TXT file and then import that into a formatted CSV, making sure to get everything perfect. Then you have to drop that file into your public Dropbox folder, create a public link (long link only, short links don’t work) for the file and then finally type the link into the app several times before the import will actually work. The app will overwrite your entry with a default example after each failure, so this was not fun at about 3:00am. But it was the best car log solution, after testing about a dozen alternatives a few months back.

Working Time – I work different hours every day, so needed something to log my hours along with space to record what projects I work on. While the app has a solution to export your data to a comma delimited file via email, no way to import the info, so basically useless. Guess I could format the CSV file and sync with my phone, but not quite the same thing. Still looking for a better solution.

There you have it. Maybe someday I will grow tired of all this app stuff and go stock, or Microsoft will integrate so much into the OS, that there will no longer be a need for any apps. Don’t think I am going to be around that long, but it’s a nice thought.

P.S. Btw, WP Developer Registration for my phone worked on the first try. Finally.









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(6) Readers Comments

  1. Where did you get speed dial ? I am using a surround also and was hoping Mango would surprisingly bring speed dial to the dialer as one of those hundreds of new features, but apparently not. It seems if a feature phone can have this feature, why not WP7.5 I sure miss it from wm6.5

  2. As a replacement for your current time tracking App., checkout Ontrack. I received a request to Beta test it about a year or more ago. I would think it would be in the market by now. I no longer do Windows, so I blew it off, but it looked like a cool App.

    BRYAN B

  3. norcal: That’s just a 3rd party app. I have tried (and paid for) nearly a dozen quick/speed dial apps and settled on this one. Speeddial 1.1 by Yearling. The app is overdue for an update but works OK for now. What I like about it is you can tap a photo to quick dial a preferred number or tap-and-hold to dial a; home, mobile or work number, or send a text. Most other apps only offer a single number. You can type a first, last and nickname for each contact, and phone numbers get pulled from the people hub, so no manual entry. No restriction on the number of contacts you can add, and the tiles can be moved around, althought that can be tedious. I have 14 contacts loaded and it takes 2-3 seconds to launch. Just like the Start screen, you can see 8 tiles/photos at a time. Not bad for 0.99.

    BryanB: I did actually take a look at Ontrack, but it offers a little more than I am looking for, with tasks, projects and sessions. And like most others, the app only exports via CSV. No option to import data. I simply need to record my start time and end time each day, write a short note describing what I did and total up my hours by day/week. Working Time does all of that pretty well but no restore function. Actually a free app, Hours Tracker, was the best I found, but the app would not close without a soft reset, so it did not last long.

  4. Thanks for the info. I have 6 or 7 numbers that I call the most, my kids cell #’s & business associates. Would be nice to touch the phone tile, then hold down a programmed # on the dialer to call them. What’s interesting is this function still works in Mango on the #1 position of the dialer for calling voicemail. They just don’t allow programming any of the other #’s.

  5. Agreed that number speed dial was a nice feature, although if I didn’t use it often enough sometimes I would stare at the keypad trying to remember if my sister was 5 or 6. I dialed my share of wrong numbers. At least with Speed Dial you have a photo to look at, and you can set the default number to call. So it’s about the same. Tap the tile (I have it just below People on the start screen) and tap a picture instead of a number. The added benefit is you can load additional numbers for each contact so if you get Joe’s VM on his cell, you can long tap and call home or work (or any pre-set alternate number). Easier than sorting through a long list in the People hub. But only effective if you limit you speed dials to around 10 contact. Otherwise you are back to scrolling/searching.

  6. @jimski: Hey jimski, I bought SpeedDial 1.1 and you’re right. It totally takes care of the issue. I bought it to support the developer instead of the free version. I would recommend it to anyone that is missing the old speed dial function. Thank you.