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One of Windows Phone 8’s new features is Over the Air Updates. Its predecessor had to be connected to the Zune application to receive updates. So this is a pretty good feature.

The WP8 update distribution lands somewhere between iOS and Android in terms of availability. When Apple releases an update, it’s distributed to all devices worldwide at the same time, so there is practically no delay. Android is the exact opposite of this (except for Nexus devices), since their manufacturers (Samsung, HTC etc.) has to apply all their features to every update before they can be released. With Windows Phone, the manufacturers (Nokia, HTC etc.) also applies some customizations and firmware. But since WP8 is very strict there isn’t much to customize, so the updates are released somewhat faster than Android updates. Still, they are far behind Apple.

This morning I received my first OTA update for Windows Phone 8, Portico; 8.0.10211.204. So I gathered some screenshots from the update procedure.

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Today we released a new update for SiteFactory CMS. The version number is now 5.0.7 and the major feature of this update is support for QR Codes.

The QR Code Support has been built into the SiteFactory CMS Core and gives our developers the ability to generate QR Code programmatically. With very little effort and a blink of an eye the QR Code Generator has processed the Url and returned a Byte Array containing the QR Code Image. So now, SiteFactory CMS is ready to use QR Code Support in any customer solution.

The QR Code Generator has been added to our vast Utilities Class Library, which you can read more about here.

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We have also created a new Properties View where our customers can view and download a QR Code Image for any page in their SiteFactory CMS website.

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What is a QR Code?

You can read a lot about it over here.

Native support in Windows Phone 7.5

If you own a Windows Phone, you can use Bing Vision which is included in the OS to read QR Codes. On other platforms you may need to download special apps to read QR Codes.

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The Mindbite Update Service is a vital part of SiteFactory CMS because it keeps all websites up to date. This feature was introduced in SiteFactory CMS 4.0 and was considered a major feature in the planning. The idea of having a Service pushing updates to our customer’s websites has been discussed for several years, but now it was time to make it happen. With over 165 websites running SiteFactory CMS we simply had to pull it off.

Before Mindbite Update Service we updated all websites manually which was extremely time consuming. Depending on the update it took between 10 minutes and an hour to update a website. Updating over 165 websites manually took a long time and we had no ability to push urgent bug fixes.

With Mindbite Update Service we can push updates to the websites at any time and since its release on November 11 –2010 we  have already released 25 updates of various size and severity to our SiteFactory CMS 4 websites. So in a little over three months we have released more updates to SiteFactory CMS 4.0 than we did with SiteFactory CMS 3.0 in over a year and half. The difference, of course, is that the updates in SiteFactory CMS 3.0 were larger than the updates in version 4.0, but mostly because we didn’t have the ability to update all customers at once.

Service Capabilities

Mindbite Update Service is installed in our Server Farm that consists of servers running Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 R2. The Service automatically manages all subscriptions (SiteFactory CMS websites). Every website communicates with the Service and upon the first authentication the Service creates a new subscription and connects it with the website. The communication between the subscriber and the Service is logged and secured with an encrypted data package to prevent other people to tamper with the Service.

All updates released to SiteFactory CMS are securely stored in the Service, together with all update meta data. When we push install an update to a website, we save an installation log entry so that we can follow up on every installed update.

To be safe, we never push updates to all websites at the same time. Instead we select 5-10 subscriptions and verify every installation. Before an update is installed, the Service checks all files included in the update package and takes a backup of existing files that are about to be upgraded. When the installation is done and the system gets a success message, the backup is purged. If something goes wrong the system restores the backup and notifies us what happened. This is just a fail safe though. We have pushed over 500 updates with this technology without any hick-ups.

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Subscription list in Mindbite Update (Swedish only).

The Update Package is structured and can be configured to add/update files and if necessary modify configuration files and the SQL database. It can basically be configured to do whatever you want it to do, so it’s very flexible.

Conflicts

Since we push updates to live SiteFactory CMS websites, we must always be sure that the new code, that is being installed, is never modified in a way that would create conflicts in custom implementations. Deleting a class or a method could result in a major crash if a developer has used it in an solution. Therefor we put a lot of effort in making the SiteFactory CMS 4.0 Core libraries as solid as possible. Namespace paths for instance will never change in any future release. Only new and/or modified features will be released. Code could ultimately be attributed as obsolete, and a change would be suggested, but it will never throw errors.

Closing comments

The Mindbite Update Service is a part of our SiteFactory CMS that we are particularly proud of. Thanks to it we can distribute bug fixes and new features in no time. Now we can utilize our time to create more features and make SiteFactory CMS an even better product.

The Service is scalable and we can connect other products to it without much work.