BringCast update from GW2013.1

Mark and I had the opportunity to get together this weekend for another GeekWeekend™.. the last one was so successful that we decided that a rematch was in order, this time in Seattle. The sun in the Pacific Northwest in March hasn’t been quite as warming as it was in San Diego in September last year but the Guinness at Paddy Coyne’s and coffee at various random locations offered compensation and we were fortunate to enjoy a contrasting Alpine backdrop to the proceedings courtesy of the Olympic and Cascade mountains. Too bad we didn’t take many photos to catalog the proceedings (actually, only one).

Whilst it wasn’t such a coding frenzy as last time, we did get a lot done. The last couple of months have been super busy for us both at our respective places of work and, as a result, our ability to spend time coding on BringCast have been severely curtailed. To that end we needed to reboot our spirits and get back into the shipping zone. I think we succeeded 😉

Progress updates and infrastructure

There were a number of things on the todo list that needed to take care of in person including:

  • Moving all our VS solutions over to cloud TFS: we’ve been using a Subversion-based cloud SCM solution up to now for the phone project while the web service was hosted in Cloud TFS.. we consolidated everything to be in cloud TFS which has been working really well for us. We also agreed to use TFS for work item tracking going forward
  • Dev Box Bringup: For myself (James) I needed to transfer all of my development assets and resources over to my new primary workhorse machine (Surface Pro) off-of the aging Sony Vaio. For Mark, we needed to get him enlisted in the cloud projects and able to checkin and publish there.
  • Reviewing progress on the new portable core: Mark has been busy refactoring our core data layer and service interface to play nicely with PCL. We code reviewed his changes and talked about how to extend this to encompass our serialization layer and parser speaking of which..
  • Making a portable version of the RSS parser: The parser we have has become quite complex because a large number of feeds we support are not entirely RSS compliant. Getting a portable version of the parser running is a high priority as it will enable us to fix feed bugs which are blocking some of our users from adopting the app (Laurent, we’re looking at you). With the portable parser deployed in the cloud and client platforms and the unit tests running again (see next bullet) we’ll be well placed to grow the podcast catalog significantly.
  • Moving the RSS Parser unit tests into a new permanent location (and.. make them work again). As mentioned above the unit test suite we’ve developed to cover our podcast catalog is a vital piece of enabling infrastructure to ensure the quality of our feed parsing experience and to enable us to grow the catalog. For various reasons we’ve been unable to leverage this for a while now and this has impeded progress with fixing feed related bugs. Let’s just say that as a result of GW2012.1 we now have check-ins gated on the parser test suite running successfully. Very cool.
  • Upgrading our Azure environment to Windows Server 2012. This is another piece of housekeeping that is long overdue. Last time we attempted this there was a lot of additional churn that ultimately caused the upgrade to be unsuccessful and to get rolled back. This time we were able to focus on this task in isolation of other changes; it is not only desirable move to stay current with the latest Azure Guest OS version (3.1) but also is an enabled for running PCL code in the cloud including the parser. Mission accomplished:
  • Fixes to the feed curation system: the feed curation system also had a few minor blocking issues that have prevented us from extending the catalog. These are now fixed.

In summary.. we’ve cleaned up a lot of the nagging issues that have been drag factors on forward progress of late and set us up well for the next phases of the project.

BringCast 3.0: the new plan

One of the other major goals of the visit was to come up with a release plan that would enable us to deliver BringCast 3.0 to the marketplace. We made the most progress on this aspect on the journey to the airport (although a lot of prep had been covered over the course of the weekend that enable this) and made some bold calls which we’ll describe here:

  • BringCast 3.0 will be
    • The last release of BringCast to support Windows Phone 7.5
    • Will include our new player centric UI
    • Will not include the cloud functionality we are currently working on
    • Will be a free upgrade for BringCast 1. x and 2. x paid users
    • Will have a free, ad-supported trial version
    • Will ship to the marketplace by the end of April 2013
  • BringCast 4.0 will
    • Deliver cloud support at scale to Windows Phone 8 and will be the version where we support Windows 8.
    • Will require an in-app purchase in order for existing users to get 1 year of cloud support (optional; BringCast 4.0 will continue to run just fine without cloud integration at no extra cost to existing paid users)
    • Will ship with 1 year of free cloud support to new purchasers of the app who buy post launch of BringCast 4.0

Action for Testers

We will be sending mail to our awesome set of beta testers shortly with instructions as to how to proceed. We will divide the group into testers who are running in cloud mode and testers who aren’t; both constituencies will have a path forward to help us out with testing if they wish and will definitely not lose any existing BringCast 3.0 B1 functionality at any stage.

We have a plan how to move the codebase forward and we think it will actually enable us to get to our intended destination in a manner that is more optimal for more people.

Summary

Mark and I are both re-enthused and ready to deliver on our new plan. We have the energy necessary to get BC3.0 to RTM (that would be Release To Marketplace) and also get BC4.0 B1 out there for our cloud testers to party on and give us feedback. We are excited around our plans for Windows 8.. we won’t talk about those for now but know we will have a unique experience that will differentiate us from what’s out there in exciting ways and that you can look forward to later this year. As ever, thanks to our customers and testers for all their support.

Roll on GW2013.2.

Best

James and Mark.