Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Status Report

Well it has recently come to our attention that not everyone follows us on Facebook, and so I will make an effort to update this blog more often with new information!

Windows 10 is something we've been looking at recently, and we have started updating our apps to start supporting it.  Rename It! Pro is now a Windows 10-based Universal App which is available for both the desktop and mobile versions. This was already available as a Windows 8.1 Universal app, so it was a natural progression to update it and get our feet wet with Windows 10 UWP apps.  All in all, the process to move it to Windows 10 was fairly straightforward, and we were happily able to condense the code base even more than it was before.  Most of the work was done on the UI end, as with Windows 10 you can now resize app windows to nearly any size, and the UI in your app needs to adjust to this or it won't look very good.  Our LCARS apps have this problem since Windows 10 came out, and we will be updating those apps as well in the future. But the UI in those apps is significantly more complex, so it will take some time.  Read on for more info on our focus going forward.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Back at it...

Update: LCARS Trek is now completely free as a Universal app for Windows 8.1! There are no ads at all on any version. We hope you continue to enjoy it :)


Thousands of people took advantage of LCARS Trek being features on MyAppFree!  We hope you enjoy the game ad-free for a long time to come.  For those of you who missed the deal, you can still download the game for free on both Windows and Windows Phone.  It will have ads in it but there is no time limit on the trial version.

I know things have been quiet around here lately as it relates to updates for our Windows/Windows Phone Store apps.  That should be changing soon, as some other projects have calmed down lately and we are back to hitting our To-Do list for LCARS!  We should have a new update ready very soon that will bring some new features!

The short list of ones that are completed are:
  • Ability to "Save As" for PDF documents.  This will help those of you who use LCARS are your default PDF reader and want to save the document that was opened from your browser.

  • Background audio for the Media Player!  This one was requested several times.  Currently background audio can be played if LCARS is minimized but the Media Player module must still be open.  In the next update, playing audio while working in other parts of the app will finally be possible!
In addition, new animations and visual changes have been made to the Warp Core module.  Starship engineers have figured out how to keep the Warp Core operational when leaving the screen, so it does not start up again every time.  This is because this module now is linked to our still in-progress ship simulator core which links all of the systems together.  Things like Navigation, Shields and Weapons will not work the same if the Core is offline!  Piece by piece we are getting this operational and when its done you will be able to manage all of the primary systems of the ship, and won't have the disconnect that they currently have where going warp speed with no warp core is possible.  Many of you have asked for this, and it's been a huge undertaking to try and map out everything that a starship does and have other systems react appropriately to different conditions, etc.  We are happy with how well it is coming along though.  Many exciting things are coming.

Windows 10 and LCARS

Windows 10 is looking like quite a product.  We installed the preview on an OLD Netbook (like pre-Clover Trail series Atom processor) and it actually runs reasonably well for basic tasks. I imagine the new browser they are coming out with will make it even better.

Our apps also run on it quite nicely too. The hardware requirements for LCARS Interface seem to be pretty low! Our typical test device is a first generation Surface RT, so everything that good or better shouldn't have any problems. We've also been taking it up a notch in the new animations we're working on and everything still seems to be silky smooth right now on Windows 8 and Windows Phone. That's one of the reasons we like having native apps that aren't running some kind of virtualization layer. You're getting the full capabilities of your hardware with less overhead. This rules out having it work cross-platform to things other than Windows based platforms, but the Windows platform continues to grow across many types of devices, and you may even see some form of LCARS come to XBox eventually. With Windows 10, Windows 7 users will be able to upgrade for free and have access to Windows Store apps too.  Other platforms of mobile devices have or are soon going to have LCARS apps.

We've got a lot of new progress to share but it will need its own blog post! We will get to that pretty soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Updates rolling out to LCARS Interface for WP7 and WP8.0

We promised this over Facebook a while back that it would be done after we finished the last update to the Windows 8.1 version. Here it is!

This update is mainly a visual update but also includes some good performance enhancements and a few other things. This brings the WP7 and 8.0 versions in line with all that we did visually in the WP8.1 version that we released recently!  The modules exclusive to the 8.1 version such as the ePub viewer, image viewer, and Holo Cam are not currently available. We will be looking into what we are able to do for those based on platform limitations eventually, as we want to keep all versions as close in features as possible.

The modules that you will see as different are:
  • Main Menu now has the updated look and also supports Landscape orientation
  • Scanner module now has updated look and also the simulator mode for phones without the Compass required hardware.
  • Calculator now supports scientific functions in Portrait orientation.
  • Improved web browser interface.
We've also done a bunch of restructuring of this legacy code for WP7/8 in order to make maintaining them easier, which will allow for back porting of some newer features to the older versions faster and more likely to be done more often, which is great for those still using capable older versions of the OS.  Not that many developers are still supporting WP7, but we are!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

LCARS Interface for Windows 8.1 (Release 41) is now available!

It's finally here!  The record setting time between updates for this app is now over and hopefully we won't be breaking it for a long time. 

The reason for the delay as explained before in previous posts in more detail was due to several things. Windows Phone 8.1 came out and we spent a lot of time re-structuring everything so that we could share as much code as possible between the Windows and Windows Phone versions. This took some time, but it ended up working out great. We had to essentially re-write the Windows Phone app from the ground up to do this, as we moved from the Silverlight framework to WinRT. Lots of code was copied over from the Windows 8 app to star with, but we also had to refactor it quite a bit in order to remove anything that coupled the code to one platform or the other. The result it we now have operation code that is identical on the back end, and we tailor the front end interface for the specific platform. Granted our interfaces for LCARS apps are quite a bit more complex than the typical Windows app UI, so we still have work to do there, but it still saves time and makes everything less prone to bugs.

Once we got the Windows Phone 8.1 app completed, it was finally time to get back to Windows 8.1. It had been a few months since the last update, and although we always have many things in progress, it's hard to show anyone that. This update needed to happen.  But what we ended up doing is another major re-structuring of the code which makes everything more modular, and separates out the "productivity" tools and the "starship systems" parts of the app even further. They now open completely separately from the "login' screen. The roadmap post from last week explains this in a lot more detail as to why we did this.  But the process went very well, and now we have very modular components that will allow more flexibility in the way people obtain these apps in the future, and give more value to the ones who purchased the phone version.

Here's the short list of changes. Not everything is listed here, but most of the things you will notice are:
  • New Camera module.
  • New E-Book Reader module (views e-pub files).
  • New Shield module.
  • New animation for external Conn viewer.
  • Secondary Tile for Weather is now a Live Tile!
  • Structural changes to the menus.
  • Bug fixes, animation tweaks, performance improvements all over the place.
Seeing as this update was long it gave us a chance to knock out quite a few things on our ever growing list. The Camera and E-Book modules were completed on the back end in the last major Windows Phone.8 1 update, and as was the plan all along they are now available on Windows 8.1 with the same functionality!

What's really cool though is the Shield module! It goes a step further than our other "ship system" modules because this one is actually running off of a fully operational "starship core" on the back end! This is just the first piece towards integrating everything with it, so all of the other systems are still standalone for now. Lots of new animation on the shields screen too, and we hope to use it as a model for how we want all new modules to be in terms of how animated and how much control you get over things. Right now all systems besides the shields are on "autopilot" and power management, etc is all handled. Eventually that will change and you will be able to modify all of them and they will affect each other! We're very excited about the possibilities for this in the future.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The New Roadmap for our LCARS Applications

It's no surprise that our LCARS apps are the bulk of our publicly available Windows applications. As such we are always doing lots of work on them to improve everyone's experiences across all platforms. This one is a bit long, but there's lots of good stuff towards the end!

Microsoft has been doing a lot of work to consolidate their Windows 8 and Windows Phone platforms lately, and we are working diligently to keep up with having our apps using the latest technologies, in addition to supporting the older versions of Windows Phone as much as we can also.

When it comes to Windows Phone, the path of least resistance would be to build a WP7 app that will run on WP7.1+, WP8.0, and WP8.1 just the same. We aren't going that route. Why? Well first off, we started out with just Windows 8! Then due to your feedback, we moved to WP8. Due to more feedback, we then added a WP7 app! Our wacky development path aside, we also think that if you buy a new phone, or Microsoft updates the OS on your existing phone, you should be able to get something new for it! While Windows Phone 7.5 is still a pretty good phone OS, it certainly doesn't have the same capabilities as WP8.0 or WP8.1. We want to take advantage of everything available on all platforms, and so we deal with supporting 3 versions of the Windows Phone apps. We have gotten very good at making this process more efficient though in terms of sharing code and being aware of platform differences, so supporting all 3 isn't as much of an effort as it was originally before we overhauled everything earlier this year.

So where do we go from here? Well, in addition to our LCARS Trek (formerly known as LCARS Simulator) game now being a Universal app that can be used on both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone (7, 8, or 8.1!), we are looking to take even more advantage of Universal apps to add some value to those of you that use them!  What does that mean? Let's see...

LCARS Simulator is now known as LCARS Trek, Available as Universal App!

As the title suggests, LCARS Simulator for Windows Phone will now be known as "LCARS Trek" because it is actually a game based on the original "Star Trek" text game from many decades ago, and we have some future plans for things that are more simulation like! We just released an update to ALL Windows Phone platforms with some bug fixes and other visual tweaks along with the new name and icons. That means updates for WP7.1, WP8.0, and we also released a new WP8.1 version that has many performance improvements and is running on the new framework underneath that is the same one being used for the WP8.1 LCARS Interface app, which has a huge number of benefits...

Not the least of which is that "LCARS Trek" is now be a Universal app, which means that we also released a stand alone Windows 8.1 version of it soon! Those of you who purchased the Windows Phone version will be able to get this one for free without paying again, and vice versa! As with the phone version, it comes with an unlimited time free trial with just an ad bar at the bottom, and purchasing it on either platform will remove the ads from both. Universal apps are nice like that!

"LCARS Trek" will continue to be built into the LCARS Interface app for Windows 8, however, and will continue to receive any updates that this one does (since they are literally utilizing the same code base now), so there is no need to buy this one if you already have that one unless you are just itching to give us money!  This is just a way to add some value to those of you who purchased the game on Windows Phone who don't want to buy the whole LCARS Interface app on Windows 8 just for that.

The Windows Phone updates should be available already, or possibly later today depending on where you are. We hope to have the Windows 8.1 version ready to go within the next couple days, as we just need to finish up a couple things on the UI to make it work as a standalone app.

If you have downloaded either version (even just the trial version) please go and rate it for us!