Test-driving Windows 7 location features

Window 7’s built-in Weather gadget defaults to showing weather for “New York, NY”:

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Aside: On Macs the location default of “Cupertino, CA”  is a cute in-joke, but aren’t there better choices, such as places people other than Apple employees live? On Windows Vista the location default was mopey Microsoft suburb “Redmond, WA.”

When we go to set our actual location, we see a disabled “Find location automatically” option:

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Searching for “location” in the Start Menu, we find the “Location and Other Sensors’” control panel, and find what’s wrong… captain, sensors are offline!

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So, can I install a sensor?

Yep.

Well, maybe you can. I can’t.

A Microsoft partner, JW Secure, built a software prototype location sensor using IP address to get estimated location.  But driver developers are the audience for this prototype… I’m no driver developer. I mean, I can sling an INF file, but there’d have to be an INF file provided to sling. I’d love to try this out as a consumer: if you can get LaptopLoJack working as a Windows 7 location sensor, please let me know. I got this far:

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By fall there should be retail PCs that have all sorts of sensors, from real GPS, to laptops with 3G cards that provide cell-ID based location, to software sensors like this prototype in cheaper PCs. No INF slinging required.

“The” Facebook application for Windows phones

Hot off my mention of the Live Search application for Windows phones comes “the” Facebook application for Windows phones. I say “the” because similar applications exist, but never were they called “Facebook” (see FriendMobilizer and SkyBook.)

I use http://m.facebook.com right now, which is a trimmed-down Facebook experience, for a 30-second peek into what my family & friends are up to, and to misspell status updates while trying to walk.

This application’s way more, including inline comment balloons & photo/video uploads… a book in the face, if you will… you’ll be spending way more than 30 seconds with this thing.

What I can tell you so far is it does not help with spelling, nor walking. Test results follow:

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Anyway, it’s a free download at the Microsoft download site.

Still haven’t figured out how to install applications on a Windows phone? Yeah, neither have the foremost scientists. You can do it. Download & open the file ending in “.cab” from your phone. (Tip: email the link to the .cab file to yourself, then open the message on the phone and click the link.)

Here’s a more in-depth, more serious review: http://www.mobilityminded.com/807/microsoft-facebook-application-for-windows-mobile-phones-step-by-step-overview

Live Search for mobile review, and usability cheer

I use the Live Search for mobile application to find local business and directions… it’s got maps, pushpins, text search, voice search, find a person, and GPS. Yeah, tons of mobile mapping applications do that.

The different thing about this application is special purpose searches, and in particular, the underappreciated “Collections”:

Screenshot: Live Search application without banner, all icons are visible

Here’s how Collections works. You create a collection of points on a map on the web, save it, then find & view the collection on your mobile device. Imagine your vacation: plan out beaches of interest (or restaurants of interest) at home, armed with 16 travel books, websites, and a PC mouse & keyboard… and you can be guided to those points when you’re on vacation by your phone.

You can also search for local collections created by others, although on a phone I think that’s more of a novelty.

The latest version I downloaded has a small, but really important usability improvement. In previous versions, there was self-glorifying banner:

Screenshot: Live Search application with banner 

Double-lame.

Worse than the duplication, the banner makes a vertical scrollbar appear, and if you’ve ever used scrollbars… well, I’ve dropped my phone with an overhand throwing motion when trying to use scrollbars.

Well, you’ll see above that the banner’s gone, and the scrollbar with it. Big deal, you say? Now my beloved Collections feature isn’t scrolled off the screen.

You can download this application for Blackberry or Windows Mobile directly to your phone at the Microsoft download site.