All posts by Mark

Music loving geek

BringCast 4 beta for Windows 10 Here!

Well, it’s been a long time coming!! James and I have been super busy over the last year. James has shipped Windows 10. Mark has become a father and shipped Apartments.com. And… we’ve found some time to chip away at the next version of BringCast!

BringCast 4 is a ground-up re-write of the popular podcasting app for Windows Phone. We’ve re-architected it for the modern Windows platform, and it is available for Windows Phone 8.1 today! The work we have done also makes it a seamless transition to move BringCast to Windows 10 – both phone and desktop/tablet – in the not too distant future!

So, what’s new in BringCast 4? Well, quite a lot actually!

  • Playback is now simpler. There is no need to subscribe to shows any more. You can browse for any show and start streaming episodes with a tap.
  • Of course, if you want to subscribe, you can. We’ll manage automatically downloading new episodes for you in the background and clean up things you have played. We’ll automatically add episodes to playlists, and scan for new episodes even when BringCast isn’t running, showing notifications in the action center when new episodes are available.
  • Searching for shows just got a whole lot better, with web-powered search! This makes it easier to find what you’re looking for and discover new shows to love.
  • We now have variable playback speed, to help you get through your shows as efficiently as possible.
  • Episodes can be sorted and filtered thanks to a new database engine that powers the whole app.
  • The user interface is customizable allowing you to add quick links to your favorite shows and filters to the menu. We’ve also built the UI to look great on any sized phone screen.
  • If you like we can download episodes in the background using cellular data.
  • Cortana integration allows you to ask Cortana to search for a show, or to play or pause playback.

Perhaps best of all, the basic functionality of BringCast 4 is FREE!

If you’re interested in some of the gory details of BringCast development, be sure to check out the BringCast Dev Podcast.

Check out some screenshots below, and be sure to stay tuned to @bringcast on Twitter for updates!

The BringCast Dev Podcast

Did anyone find the Easter egg that we hid in the last podcast database update and BringCast 3.8.6!?

HINT: Try searching the database for “BringCast”… 🙂

That’s right – we’re launching our very own podcast called The BringCast Dev Podcast! This show, co-hosted by James and Mark will cover:

  • The on-going development of the app you know and love
  • Any geeky topics we’ve been interested in
  • Technical challenges we’ve been facing
  • Discussion of our favorite parts of recent podcasts we’ve listened to
  • Maybe even a few podcast and music recommendations

We won’t commit to a show schedule – let’s just say there will be new episodes as and when we find the time to record them 😉

Regardless, subscribe and enjoy! The first “real” episode is coming very soon!

Announcing BringCast 4 Beta

James and I have been hard at work this weekend getting BringCast 4 ready for beta testing! After a super-productive “Geek Weekend”, I’m proud to say we made it.

BringCast 4 is a complete re-write as a Universal Windows App for Windows Phone 8.1.

It has a brand-new user interface, which is both simpler to use and more powerful. Here’s the new playback screen:

Player
Player

It’s cleaner than BringCast 3.8, yet shows more episode detail information. The new UI is fully adaptive to support large screen devices such as the Nokia Lumia 1520 and high DPI devices like the Nokia Lumia Icon.

Adaptive User Interface
Adaptive User Interface (L-R: Lumia 520, 928, Icon, 1520)

The new Windows Universal App model also allows us to finally offer variable playback speed! You can choose from a bunch of options to speed through episodes at a more efficient pace. We’ve also added variable speed scrubbing to give you extra control.

Tapping the hamburger menu icon in the top right opens the new drawer. This is where BringCast 4’s new power user features really start to shine through. From here you can manage your playlists, but also view a complete playback history of every episode you’ve ever played.

Playback Drawer
Playback Drawer

BringCast 4 is built atop a fully relational database, making it possible to slice-and-dice episode lists however you want. You can show all episodes, unplayed or just those that you’ve downloaded. Also, new in this release is the ability to play an episode from anywhere in the app, without having to add it to a playlist first. This makes BringCast 4 an excellent choice for the type of users who likes to view a list of episodes in a show and play them easily, without worrying about playlist management.

With BringCast 4 you can ensure that you always have the X latest episodes available on your device and we’ve refined the display of them. Here you can see the list of episodes in a show, with one-tap access to play and stream and at-a-glance information about the episode.

Episode List
Episode List

This new version has been built from the outset to be fully localizable too, so we’ll be asking for some help from our loyal multi-lingual users to help us with translations into your languages!

Being a Universal Windows App has allowed us to greatly improve the download manager. You can now queue as many episodes to download as you like and the operating system will get them over Wi-Fi in the background. Is there a new episode that you just have to listen to now, but you’re not on Wi-Fi? No problem, BringCast 4 now supports promoting episodes to download over cellular in the background – there’s no need to keep the app open anymore!

There are lots of other features we’ll briefly touch on, including:

  • Auto-suggestion of podcasts when searching
  • Integration with Cortana – ask her to search for podcasts for you, or to control playback by voice
  • Mission Control – a high-level view of all episodes across all shows that you can slice-and-dice, thanks to the powerful database under the hood and infinite scrolling

Geeky Deep-Dive
You guys have been clamoring for this release for some time and we’ve felt inspired by the overwhelmingly positive energy you’ve been sending us! So… what took time?

Really, the re-write is what took the time. BringCast 3.8 was already a well-established and feature-rich product. When Microsoft announced Universal Windows Apps earlier this year at //BUILD/, we know it was the right choice for the next version of BringCast to enable all the great features we wanted to bring, along with keeping us on the most modern platform version.

So, the decision was made to essentially start from scratch! With the updated platform, we chose to build support for large screen, high DPI devices and localization into the core of the product.

Perhaps one of the most time consuming things we chose to do was to sit BringCast 4 atop a fully relational database. This not only had a steep learning curve, but also tore apart our tried and trusted methodology of binary serialization of the data model that had powered the first versions of BringCast so well. However, the moment we implemented episode filtering, we knew we’d made the right architectural choice!

I Want It!
We’ll be sharing BringCast 4 Beta Zero with some select users as soon as this week. Once we’ve ironed out any show-stoppers with that small group, we’ll open up Beta One to those users who previously expressed an interest a few months back (thank you!).
Beta Two will be made publicly available to anyone who is interested ahead of the final release.

Please be patient, BringCast 4 is coming soon!

 

BringCast 3.8.4, Database Update and SD Cards

We’ve been busy at work on BringCast v4, but have a little treat in store for all our current users!

BringCast v3.8.4 is now available in the store! This release has a few bug fixes and a transparent tile, so it looks great on Windows Phone 8.1! Get it now! In addition, we’ve published an update to the podcast database, including more of the shows that you guys love. Get it by going to Settings > Database and tapping “Update Database”.

While we’ve got your attention, it’s worth mentioning that Windows Phone 8.1 allows the installation of apps to an SD card. This means that if you’ve upgraded your OS, you can install BringCast to an SD card! This is great for users on smaller capacity devices, who have expandable memory. We plan on supporting this even better in BringCast 4, but for now this is a great stop-gap!

Enjoy!

BringCast 3.8.3 is Available!

BringCast 3.8.3 is available now in the Windows Phone Store! This update includes the following changes:

  • Support for podcasts from PodcastOne. We love the work Rob Greenlee did for podcasting at Microsoft, and he’s now CTO over at PodcastOne! BringCast can now process podcast feeds from PodcastOne, and we’ve even added a bunch to the built-in database!
  • Expanded podcast database. A whole bunch of user-requested feeds have been added.
  • Updating database now updates subscriptions automatically. In the past, if a podcast publisher changed the URL of their show, users would have had to unsubscribe and re-subscribe. With this new release, when you update your database (via Settings > Database > Check for Database Updates), we’ll automatically patch any URLs that have changed!
  • Bug fixes. We fixed the top six bugs being reported by users

Grab the update now and enjoy!

Epic Saturday

Saturday of Geek Weekend was EPIC. Here’s what we did:

  • Made amazing progress on what will become BringCast 4.0.0. We started work on a major overhaul of the user experience, fleshed out a lot of ideas, and got various proof-of-concepts working
  • Pushed out two betas of BringCast 3.8.3. The new version has PodcastOne feed support, improved database handling so it will now patch any URLs that have changed in subscriptions, and we also fixed the top bugs
  • Automated some of the time consuming steps of processing podcast feed requests, which resulted in…
  • …pushing out two podcast database library updates which all users can benefit from right now (Settings > Database > Check for Database Updates)

Today (Sunday) is the last day of Geek Weekend. We’re excited to see what we’ll achieve!

More later… 🙂

7 Phones, 2 Ultrabooks, 3 Tablets, 2 Coffee Cups and 1 Very Understanding Wife!

That’s the formula for what is shaping up to be a very successful geek weekend!

So, what have we been up to so far? James arrived on Thursday night, so we caught up for an hour or so before getting a good night’s sleep in.

On Friday, after getting set up, we started with a discussion of what we wanted to achieve, both long term and this weekend.

The Setup

Typically we both work independently, so we had a few things to demo to each other of some new core components that will form part of BringCast v4.0.0.

Around lunch time, we hooked up with Mr Travis Lowdermilk (of Windows Developer Show fame!!) for a video chat and general UX geek out about our various pain points with BringCast’s current UX. This picture shows Travis drawing on his whiteboard via video chat!

BhCcf7zCAAAS4yQ

It was an awesome session and certainly gave James and me lots to think about with regard to our planned UX overhaul for v4.

After a well-earned lunch break in the San Diego sunshine, James and I got back to coding for a few more hours.

We’ll keep you guys posted on what today brings! #GW14

Update: We of course are aware that there are TWO very understanding wives. The author of the blog post was referring to the wife that is hosting the two geeks

Geek Weekend!

This coming weekend, James and I will be getting together for a weekend of pure geekery! Since we live about 1,300 miles apart (James in Redmond, WA and me in San Diego, CA), we try to get together a couple of times a year for a pure geek-out. We refer to these as “Geek Weekends”!

Typically, these are weekends of massive productivity – the type that can only be brought on by being under the same roof for a few days. Previous geek weekends gave birth to:

  • BringCast 3.0’s refreshed UI and re-design (San Diego, September 2012)
  • Portable core, finishing BringCast 3.0, goal setting for v3.8.0 (Redmond, March 2013)

We’re hoping this coming weekend will be equally as productive!! James arrives in San Diego late on Thursday night. Armed with coffee and food supplies we’ll be squeezing as much BringCast goodness as we can into Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

Follow what we’re up to via Twitter, Facebook and of course this blog! We plan to use the hashtag #GW14 on Twitter, so keep in touch!

BringCast 3.8.2 Is Live!

BringCast v3.8.2 is now live in the Windows Phone Store! You can get it here! The change log is as follows:

  • Expanded podcast database
  • Supports new “wp-podcast” URI app protocol
  • Bug fixes

Let’s drill into those!

We’ve been busy adding your podcast requests to the database. While you can easily update this over-the-air via Settings > Database > Check for Database Update, we like to always ship the latest version with each update. See earlier blog posts for details of all the new podcasts that have been added here and here.

The “wp-podcast” protocol is a project spearheaded by our friend Rob Irving, author of the great app, Car Dash.

Rob proposed the idea of having a standard “podcast protocol” to enable apps on the phone to easily interact with whatever podcasting app a user might have installed. This makes life easier for developers, as they can make their app work with a single podcast protocol, and have the confidence that other apps that implement it will integrate also.

Rob worked with us and also Mark Monster of P|Cast to flesh out and stabilize the protocol, and now Car Dash, P|Cast and of course BringCast have all been updated to use it. The end result is more seamless integration between the apps! Rob has detailed the protocol on his blog, here.

3.8.2 also squashes a lot of bugs. We tackled the topmost bug occurrences to give everybody a more reliable experience. The keen-eyed amongst you may notice we dropped the animated transitions between the pages. This fixes a weird graphical glitch that Steve Litchfield at AAWP was seeing on his particular combination of a Lumia 1020 with the Black update installed. We’re glad to have that one squashed, and we quite like the lack of transitions – it seems to make everything that bit faster!

Go get BringCast 3.8.2 now from the store. BringCast 3.0.4 for our WP7 will be coming soon, too!