A good majority of us has been intrigued by the white background and black live tiles combination of themes, not to mention choosing the color scheme of your device by hex values instead of a limited (but aesthetically pleasing) list. Thankfully diaahussein and rmcgraw have come up with a sweet little guide (especially convenient for us newbies).
You will need an unlocked device (read up on our Chevron team coverage) and have a registry editor installed. This process involves altering system settings on your phone and WPCentral cannot (and will not) accept any responsibility or liability for devices that end up continuously displaying the following image when booting up:
Head on past the break for the steps and a video tutorial by Saijo from 1800PocketPC.
It's been awhile since we've heard much from the homebrew crowd, in fact once everyone went to 'NoDo' and the door was shut on home-unlocked devices, the amount of side-loading software declined dramatically. That wasn't a terrible thing either, as Mango's "500 features" goes along way in "fixing" any complaints users may have with the OS.
Still, for those developers who either cannot afford the $99 or for those just starting out, there's an odd solution coming forth from the ChevronWP7 team. Evidently they are set to release a new unlocker, but this time with the blessings of Microsoft. It's called ChevronWP7 Labs. The catch? It won't be free this time:
"The service will require a small fee — currently via PayPal — to offset costs but we assure you it will be more affordable than the App Hub. Those who wish to write and immediately publish apps are recommended to sign up to the App Hub instead.
We’re excited to be making this service available to users with the support of the Windows Phone team."
Now, before we can pass judgement on this, we'd have to know how much we're talking here. That range can be from $1 to $98, we suppose and that's a large range. If we're talking $5-15 we can kind of look past it and almost think of it as a tip to the Team for their work; more than that and it starts looking like opportunism (and we'd be surprised Microsoft would be okay in losing that money).
For now though, we can at least be happy that an unofficial/official solution is coming to the platform, which may still allow a homebrew community to grow on the sides and allow devs of all ranges to play with the platform. Stay tuned...
A member over at the XDA Developer forum, by the username hx4700Killer, has come up with a backup tool for your Windows Phone 7 device. It's a simple .Net program that allows users to backup their device via Zune and can be used for restoration when you use the "update" option.
There are a few prerequisites that need to be seen to before-hand:
Should you be missing any of the above the application will alert you and even open a web page to point you in the correct direction for the absent link in the chain. To download and find out more information, check the source below.
XDA Developers forum user fiinix has brought on-screen captures to Windows Phone 7, something everyone (especially us bloggers) desire more than above all else, as a homebrew solution. While requiring the dehydration hack, this app contains the setting to toggle whether it's active or not (preserving battery life).
Here are the provided instructions:
Open up the app
Navigate to the app/screen you want to capture (no more than 2 apps in between (this app will be killed by "Watchdog"))
Hold "focus" (not click, >focus), for at least 500ms
Wait for messagebox to verify capture
(SUCCESS) > Located under "Pictures > All > Saved Pictures"
You can download the screen capture app and find out more information over at the thread on the XDA dev forum.
File management: explore device, exchange files with your phone
Sync files, folders and favorites with phone
Send to Windows Phone (to send files, apps, ringtones, web links in one click)
Detailed device information (CPU, ROM, RAM, storage, network, battery, OS,...)
Add and manage custom ringtones
Additionally, TouchXperience for Windows Phone 7 has been released as a Beta. The navigation app was well received back in the Windows Mobile days and it doesn't miss a beat on Windows Phone 7. Key features of TouchXperience include:
Create custom menus
Add folders, apps, contacts, websites, maps, documents, and many other widgets
Organize applications & games
Panorama background customization
Keep in mind you'll need a registered or unlocked Windows Phone 7 device to use either. You can find all the details on Windows Phone 7 Device Manager and TouchXperience here at the TouchXperience website and after the break, you can catch a video demo of TouchXperience.
While there is still no sign of the feature to allow global screenshots to be taken on your WP7 device, Smartphone France has posted a sneak peek at a solution (for those with registered/unlocked devices) that doesn't require the emulator to be used.
Using the Windows Phone Device Manager, developed by Julian Schapman, in conjunction with his app 'TouchXperience' one is reportedly presented with the ability to take screenshots on their device. Requiring the form of multitasking, this is a fantastic feature to bring to the homebrew table. The guys at Smartphone France proved their word by taking a bunch of screenshots on their LG Optimus 7 (some posted above).
Currently the Windows Phone Device Manager and TouchXperience for WP7 are both in active development and closed beta testing (only donators are eligible for enrolment). We will keep an eye on the development of the tools and apps, along with the features made available to users and keep you in the loop.
If you're lucky enough to have a developer unlocked device, you may be interested in this sweet little project happening over at XDA. Martin_S has create a very lite app that enables searching and streaming of most major TV shows. In short, the app pulls down user-uploaded videos, presumably from various video-hosting sites.
Of course such grey-area usage of streaming and copyright concerns means we'll never see this app in the Marketplace, but hey, till then you can continue to flaunt those laws and stream some mediocre quality TV to your phone on the go. The app is still kind of rough and barren--but it does work as you can see in the video above.
Now the same hacker, Jaxbot over at Windows Phone Hacker, is bringing it to the next level by adding on an app-switching program to the mix. In short, this brings near full multi-tasking to Windows Phone well before the 'Mango' update, expected this fall.
By utilizing the camera's half-shutter button, a user can bring up a nice UI that allows one to now choose between apps that are "running" instead of just using the back-arrow or "re-launching" the app from your Start screen. Of note, this is just a 'preview' meaning the design is still in development and things can change as it progresses. Either way, we're stoked:
...the application is triggered by pressing the half shutter button (pressing the camera button halfway, not to the point where the camera would launch), and allows the user to jump between desired applications. The applications run in the background to a degree, as shown with the timer, and no time is required to bring the applications back from their background state. It's all very technical, but rest assure that he will be sharing some more details in the future.
Keep in mind the application is a preview-the interface and how it functions may very well change before release, and no release date is available. But if you're interested in having it on your device, share some thoughts about how you think it should look, function, etc, in the comments below.
Very cool stuff. Stay tuned for more as this develops. Of note, you will need a developer unlocked device to have this work when it is finally released.
Over at XDA, developer kuerbis2 has laid the groundwork for a Homebrew Marketplace by releasing a new XAP installer and even more importantly, a protocol handler (like the “zune:”-URLs) called "wphome". That last bit sort of huge as it allows people to "register" their homebrew XAP files, thereby creating hyperlinks to allow easy distribution/installation of said files. The features so far are summarized as follows:
In-place update on the phone: In-place update on the phone, e.g. if you already have Version 22.214.171.124 of an app installed on the phone and install 126.96.36.199 an in-place update will performed. No more full "uninstall-new install" cycle required. Your settings, custom files etc. won't be removed (same as marketplace update)
Deploy from file or URL: You can either specify a file or an URL. If you enter an URL the installer will automatically download the xap.
Own protocol "wphome": Zune's one-click download for homebrew apps. Automatically install homebrew XAPs with a click on a hyperlink. If you want, you can register the application for the wphome protocol. The application will then be allowed to handle urls like wphome:www.test.com/test.xap and will automatically start as soon as you click on such a link
Like we said, this is pretty big news as no one has gone this far in creating a framework for a homebrew marketplace. If enough devs adopt this protocol (and we see little reason why they should not), then we'll have a standard for distribution, as opposed to just attachments in a forum. Of course, people still need a way to side-load applications i.e. developer unlocked without paying $99 a year--for that we'll have to wait for Microsoft to provide a solution, otherwise the homebrew community will be forever niche. Stay tuned for more...
We have been following the development of the Windows Phone Device Manager with a watchful eye, and the proposed addition to the software was the inclusion of a new "jailbreaking" tool that would allow unlocking a handset without developer registration. Julien Schapman has now sated this is not going to be included with WP Device Manager.
"Because I was bored getting hundreds of emails from people asking me to send them WP Device Manager so they can continue to use pirated applications, and because there will be a short term solution for homebrews, I decided not to include my jailbreak tool. I respect other developers and I don’t want to be responsible for piracy, I’ve been contacted by Brandon Watson from Microsoft and I wish to be involved in the official homebrew support on Windows Phone."
While I'm aware that the majority of folk will be surprised by the latest announcement (we are too!), one must consider the positives that were included in Julien's post. He mentions that he wishes to be involved in the official homebrew development/support on WP7. I believe Microsoft should have as much of the homebrew community onboard as possible to ensure that their solution will be more than what these developers were cooking up individually.
For now, it looks like we will all be extending our wait for setting Barbie Girl as our ringtones and using a colour wheel to select the OS theme. With NoDo just around the corner (should it actually work on all devices), our attention should be occupied with the features included within the update, not to mention the fantastic selection of Xbox Live titles and apps that are available.
What do you think of this decision, and do you have high hopes for the homebrew support that Microsoft is promising?
Version v0.8 is rather far from functional but what you see above is this: a side-loaded Windows Phone application called 'Skyper' that connects via proxy to your Skype client on your PC. It is then able to pull down your contact information to display. Right now you can't act on any of the information, or rather the messaging part is not complete. Still, it's an impressive first step in the right direction, but a little technical on setting it up.
The real question though is this: with rumored socket support and confirmed multi-tasking ('Mango"), we think there's a high chance Skype may come to market on Windows Phone this year, but will Skyper beat it to the punch? We'll keep track of both sides.
Although we've seen quite a few OEM apps ripped from their exclusive hardware (see Samsung, LG) there was one HTC app that proved extremely difficult: YouTube HD.
The app had unique tie ins to the hardware and some real custom programming that made ripping a functional app impossible. However, it has finally been done by Tom Hounsell, who's been very big on the XDA seen and led the charge on making these apps available for all (who have a developer unlocked device).
So what changed? HTC evidently "...did the kind thing and removed all the breaking code from the old version" as Hounsell informs us in a Tweet. So does HTC want us to rip these? We doubt it, instead it was probably done to just make things easier. Regardless, we loaded it up on our LG Quantum and had no issues running it, making it a great addition, much to HTC's probable disapproval.
Developer Schapman has promied some advanced tools for the homebrew Windows Phone crowd such as the all-powerful WP Device Manger, but we haven't see much until now. Schapman recently gave a preview demo of the upcoming app for your PC desktop and it certainly looks to have plenty of features:
Manage your apps, check for updates
Edit Office documents
Connect via tether or WiFi
Send SMS, emails, notes, clipboard info
Add custom ringtones
Overall, not a bad list. If it lives up to the hype, it could be a very powerful tool for people wanting a little extra control over things. No word on release, but it is in private beta now, so fingers crossed.
In a neat experiment, developer Colin Eberhardt shows how it is possible to import Google's Sky Maps into a Windows Phone 7 application, using the same mapping APIs as Bing. This is a popular trick that we've seen with TA Maps and other programs that access 3rd party mapping databases.
The downside here though is that this is far from what they have on Android--which is an augmented reality application used for discovering and showing celestial objects in the sky using the phone's compass and accelerometers. Instead, this just shows the Sky Map with some pre-defined objects for viewing. Furthermore, Google evidently is not allowing use of the data outside of their services, so we'll have to either wait for an official Google solution or some really ambitious home-coder.
Feeling that "the Dell Venue Pro has been neglected by the WP7 homebrew community for a while," XDA user Notebookgrail decided to give it some love. Using the native COM .dll (OurCOM.dll), he developed DVP Compass and DVP Flashlight. The names say it all, Compass tells you where to go and Flashlight let's you see it.
DVP Flashlight also sports the following features:
Uses the LED Flash on the device back as a flash.
Black out the screen after 10 secs to save power while in 'On' Mode.
Uses touch gestures (tap) and Button toggle.
At the moment, you need a developer unlocked or Chevron unlocked Venue Pro to sideload these two gadgets, but Notebookgrail has full registry read/write access in his sights. Just follow the links for the downloads.
We mentioned the Homebrew Device Manager by Schapman some time ago and that its release was delayed for various reasons including a desire to wait until the first update for Windows Phone 7 hit the airways. It is our understanding now that the software will become available next week.
"As the WP7 update is delayed I will not wait until March to give you WP Device Manager, there will be a private beta on next week and it will be Publicly released soon after if it's alright. Former contributors and beta testers will get access to the private beta, developers HAVING Also node devices are welcome to join."
The Device Manager does sound promising and it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
If you have an HTC developer unlocked ("jailbroken") phone, then this trick may be for you: evidently you can convert PDF books into .PRC files that can then be sideloaded on the device and viewed with Amazon's Kindle app. The reason? As DominikZ over at XDA notes, Charles Petzold's eBook "Programming Windows Phone 7" which is 100% free, costs $22.53 on Amazon (we actually see two versions, one XNA, one Silverlight, but both do cost ~$20 for the Kindle edition). Through this trick, you can convert the free PDF version of the book to a Kindle compatible one.
The task is not too difficult, but hardly elegant. As noted, only HTC devices can do this right now because the trick relies on TouchXplorer, which doesn't work to well on non-HTC devices.:
Copy the newly created *.prc file to your phone. If not already done, install TouchXplorer and go to My Documents\Zune\Content\0400\03 and cut the newly created file (It will be renamed to*.z)
Paste it to Applications\Data\48195FB4-EE0E-9264...\Data\IsolatedStore\kindle
Now rename the file so you will remember the it (e.g. programming.prc).
Start up Kindle and the newly added book should be available.
Like we said, not easy but once you do your first one, the rest are a breeze. Conversion usually takes less than five minutes from our experience and this seems a great way to load school PDFs, free eBooks, etc. onto your Windows Phone.
Probably in the near future, Windows Phone 7 ROM developers (yes, there will be some) will be needing a method by which to mass install their homebrew apps back on to a newly flashed device--or even those of us who do a hard reset.
Mengow over at XDA has solved one little problem by making a mass-XAP installer, allowing you to just drag-n-drop your collection of apps. The app is simple enough and seem to work quite well so far, making mass installation that much easier. Up till now, we had to install an app one by one by one with lots of double clicks in between, now the process is more streamlined, making this a welcomed addition to the homebrew community.
The reports of Dell Venue Pro owners experiencing crashes and freezes on their devices have been plentiful, usually when downloading files over a WiFi connection. The good news is that a user named zeevDVP over at the Dell Community seems to have isolated the source to faulty MicroSD cards being shipped out with the phones, which could explain why it does not happen to everyone. The bad news is that if you decide to resolve the issue by replacing the card it will void your warranty. If your Venue Pro is continuously freezing, you might be ready to chuck it against a wall, which would also void the warranty, so this fix just could be the right fit for you. In any case, reports are that it works.
Here is the process zeeDVP outlines, using a class 2 32GB Sandisk card (Sandisk part number SDSDQM-032G-B35):
1. Fully sync your phone with Zune, replacing the card requires hard-resetting the device (essentially formatting it).
2. Go to "Settings->about->reset your phone", click "Yes" for both questions, then just as the screen goes dark (as the phone is going for a restart) remove the battery.
3. Replace the micro SD card. The card slot is located next to the SIM card slot and covered by a black warranty sticker, you'll need a tool like a very small flat head screwdriver or a safety pin to remove the card as it's not spring loaded (again, since it wasn't designed to be user serviceable). You can see the location of the card slot here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weOg1dzPmU0 (if you don't want to watch the whole thing skip to 3:00 to see how to remove the card)\
4. Reinsert the battery and power up the device. You'll be presented with the welcome screen guiding you through the initial device setup and you're done.