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Scott's Column
Sample Project, Zune vs. Android vs. iPhone

October 2, 2011
By Scott Lewis

In two days Apple is expected to announce the iPhone 5... and the only rumor that I care about is... will it be available on Sprint. To that end it is time to think about my next phone, so I will tell you what I am thinking about. Also, I am working on a new project that spurred me to stat building a generic order taking system that I may be able to sell to small or extra small companies.

Current Topics:

Sample Project

I am in the process of building a sample project. I am going to be working on a SQL Server project soon, and to get familiar with SQL Server (like the sequence number issue from last month) I decided to build a sample project.

I am going to build this project as a generic order taking system. The idea is to script the entire database and build a few simple applications that manipulate the data. I am building an order taking system that will be based off a fictional company called Global Widget Company (GWC).

I am going to build a series of generic applications:

1) A client/server application that can service orders. This would be able to enter, edit and view orders. This would be an application run by an employee of the company. Call center personnel would use it to take orders over the phone. Other employees would edit or view orders as necessary.

2) A client/server application that can administer the system. This would be an application used my various employees of the company. Sales people would use it to setup products, categories, ad codes, etc. There would also be user administration so we could easily add new users to the system, such as new hires. We would also provide roles in the system such that users would be assigned roles such as sales, call center, administration, etc. The roles would allow or restrict what various people can do (mainly where and when they are allow to change the data, or even be allowed to see the data).

3) A generic order taking web site. This would be a plain jane web site that would have a shopping cart, and display products that a customer could add to their cart, and checkout when they are ready. Since this is a sample application I have not decided yet if I am going to build in the ability to take credit card payments.

4) Produce some generic reports. Reports is a broad term. I will have a report that will print shipping manifests for all orders. This could be used to fulfill orders from a warehouse... or even someone's garage. The idea is to have a way to print something for the people that would ship products to customers. I will also create a basic monthly sales report.

My intention with this project was to use it as the foundation for my new project. However, the new project is well underway. I am still going to finish this project, but it will take a lot long to finish since it will not get a lot of my time over the next few months.

Ideally I hope I can sell this generic project to small businesses. For small companies that cannot hire their own programmers to build them an order entry / ecommerce solution, this could be a possible way to do it at a low cost.

To make it work for a small company I would just have to contract out a graphic designer to give the web site a look and feel that works for the company. With everything scripted, we should be able to clone the project over and over.

Of course, the real fun comes when we charge extra to customize it for a company's particular needs.

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Zune vs. Android vs. iPhone

I love my Zune. However, Microsoft has abandoned it. They are pushing the Zune Marketplace over to the Windows Phone 7 platform. There really isn't any worthwhile apps for the Zune, and the phone apps won't work on a Zune (a load of BS in my opinion). So the Zune is locked in as a music, video & podcast player.

Podcasts are a double edge sword. The Zune device does a very nice job of handling podcast material. The problem is about 1/3 of the 8-10 podcasts I listen to I have to manually plug in their address info into the Zune software. The Zune marketplace sucks for podcasts. Which is a total shame. I prefer how the Zune handles podcasts over iTunes. But all the podcasts are on iTunes.

I wonder what I will do with my Zune when I get me next phone. I bought an HTC Hero (Jan. 2010). I will be eligible for another phone sooner than expected. Recently my HTC Hero stopped playing my two most favorite fames... WSOP Hold'em and Angry Birds Rio. Angry Birds was slow and difficult with the size of the screen. WSOP Hold'em was my favorite time waster when waiting in lines, sitting in waiting rooms... and even staying awake in boring meetings.

I do not know why these games stopped working. I reset my phone and re-installed the apps, but nothing changed. I even redownloaded the OS from the web and completely reinstalled it. I believe I have faulty memory, but I do not know for sure.

In any event, I am going to get a new phone as soon as I can. I do like Android quite a bit. I will have no trouble getting another Android phone. I do like some of the new 4.3" screen equipped HTC phones.

The one thing I need to know about new Android phones is memory. My phone only has something like 256 MB of memory internal to the phone. Of that maybe 100 MB is usable for my apps. That is not a lot. I have a microSD card with 2GB in the phone, but you can't install apps there. Oh, the apps can store their data there, but only after the app is installed to the built-in memory.

Then there is the iPhone. I am on Sprint. If the next version of the iPhone comes to Sprint I will seriously consider it. And we are just a couple of days from find this out.

What about my Zune? If I were to get an iPhone on Sprint... there seems little reason to also have a Zune. iPhone integration with cars is better than my using an Aux jack with my Zune. And the screen on an iPhone is more than up to playing videos. Of course by combining my phone with my music/video/podcast player... battery life will be a real concern.

Android phones are so much better now that I see little reason to carry my Zune with a new Android phone. Again... there should be better integration with an Android device than just using my Aux. jack in my car. The 4+ inch screens available should be more than up to the task of my video watching. Plus I could run Spotify or Pandora on an Android phone to supplement my music collection.

It is looking like my Zune's days are numbered.

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Conclusion

Next month I will tell you about a new coffee/espresso grinder I got... and the story behind it.

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