Using Hockey App to distribute Windows Phone apps

Distributing Windows Phone apps to testers has always been a pain. The Private Beta in the Windows Store intended for this is not very flexible and it got much worse with Windows 10 (generating promotional code that can take up to 24 hours).

One of the better ways to solve the beta build distribution is using a service like Hockey App, that Microsoft recently acquired. To be able to use Hockey App (or any other service) you need to buy a $299 certificate from Symantec.

You then use the certificate to sign the XAP or APPX files of your app. Those signed binaries can be than installed on devices with the correct application enrollment token directly from Hockey App, bypassing the Windows Store.

One of my clients got persuaded to try this approach after some problem with the Windows Store Private Beta and bough the certificate. It took a week for the purchase to go through and another week to finally get the certificate in the correct PFX format from Symantec.

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How to handle localization strings provided by the client in a Windows Phone app

I currently work on a Windows Phone 8.1 app for a client with an interesting approach to app localization. They have a Google Docs sheet with all the localization string for the app in all the supported languages and a tool that converts this localization strings in to per-language versioned JSON files. The generated JSON files are kept in a git repository. The Android, iOS and now my Windows Phone app should have the git repository added as a submodule. When a new version of the JSON files with the localization appear in the submodule, the app should use them.

Deciding the localization approach

In the old days of Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 I would simply write an utility that reads the newest version of the JSON localization files and generate a RESX file for each language. RESX is XML format that is simple to generate. If you had a localized string with a key say Game, you would put it everywhere when the localization of the word game was needed. Simple

In Windows Phone 8.1 (and 10) you should use RESW files for localization. This is the new x:Uid approach that, in my honest opinion, really sucks. It forces you to duplicate string if you use I string in multiple places, there is no design time support, you never know what UI element are localized and what you forgot to localize. Simply put, it is a mess. This approach is not usable at all with the string client provides.

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Detecting gestures over WebView on Windows Phone

If you develop Windows Phone apps, you surely had to use the WebView component at least once. Any you must have realized, that it kind of sucks. One of the problems is that it swallows all the gestures and manipulation events. This means you cannot put it into a Pivot, you cannot detect swipe left or right events to navigate to next or previous article .. or can you?

In a recent project, I had to implement exactly the mentioned functionality, swiping between articles displayed in a WebView. I did some research and I could not find any solution. So I had to get creative and I find a way involving JavaScript.

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Highlighting letters in TextBlock in Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1

In my current project I had to implement an interesting feature for both Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 project of the Universal app. The idea is simply. The users want to search for a movie. They enter a search term into a TextBox and a list of results is shown. The results should have the search term highlighted in them.

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Strange combination of HTTPS and Windows Phone 8.1 that can make your app and phone freeze

Last week I came upon a really bizarre problem that you may also find interesting. Lets start with a bit of context.

Tl;Dr: There seems to be a bug in Windows phone 8.1 that can make your app and the phone freezes when displaying images over HTTPS from some servers. Skip to the end of this article to see a video and get the source code.

The Windows Phone app

The app is a Windows Phone 8 shopping app for the biggest Czech online retailer. The main screen of the app contains quite a bit of data, usually about ten carousel with about 10 products and the list of main categories, so about 10 more images.

In worst case the main screen contains over 10 hundred images. It was quite a hassle to make it work well in the Windows Phone 8 SDK (no, rewriting a shopping about with about 70 screens to Windows Phone 8.1 is not feasible). But it work juts fine. Until last week.

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