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Microsoft Student Partner

A Thank-you to the Microsoft Student Partner Programme

Last week any Microsoft Student Partners who wanted to continue to be in the programme for the 2015-2016 academic year had to reapply, as I will be graduating in September I of course was unable to do so, bringing around the end of my time as an MSP.

I’d like to take this time to thank Phil Cross, Paul Lo, Ben Nunney and all the others who made being as MSP both great fun and really rewarding. I’ve posted about some of the cool stuff we got up to before:

Whilst we got a lot of cool perks like endless free Windows Phone and Windows 8 devices, this paled in comparison to the opportunities of travel and honing our skills both in presenting and dealing with people and in programming and development.

If you’re thinking about becoming an MSP — go for it. You’ll be afforded a lot of opportunities the average student just doesn’t get, which both you and future employers will love.

Danny

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Microsoft Student Partner

MSP UK Summit 2013

Gordon Walker, MSP Lead, talking about the history of Mobile Phones — No bonus points for spotting me with my blue hair…

A few weekends back was the Microsoft Student Partner UK Summit for 2013. As I’m a first year MSP it was my first experience of such an event and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was hosted at Modern Jago in the heart of Central London, which is always a nice place to be!

There were lots of inspiring talks from several softies including Andy Wigley talking about porting between Windows Phone 7/8 and Windows 8, Ben Nunney talking about developing a great user experience and marketing your apps, but most interesting to me was a talk presented by Mike Taulty about Windows Azure, particularly Windows Azure Mobile Services — a service which can be used to easily set up database driven RESTful services which integrate easily with Android, iOS and of course Windows Phone 7/8 Applications.

A Nokia Lumia 820 - Image from https://www.t-mobile.co.uk/common/img/products/phones/nokia/lumia-820-lte/lumia_820_lte_SC_large_first.jpg
A Nokia Lumia 820 – Image from T-Mobile

I spent much of the Saturday of the two day event working with Kevin Lewis, the designer I have been working with on the App Builder Rewards website, implementing additional features to the site. I also met up with Paul Lo, the guy in charge of the program who thanked me for my work and gave me a Lumia 820 Windows Phone 8 Device as a thank-you for completing so much work at short notice — which I will review soon. It was really nice to finally meet, in person, the people I had been collaborating with on the project and speaking to constantly through VoIP, Instant Messaging and Email for the previous two weeks — almost like re-meeting people I already knew.

In the evening I made the short train journey to Milton Keynes to meet up with my family and my close friend from back home Sam Marr to see the comedian Harry Hill at the Milton Keynes Theatre and grab some dinner. A great evening was had by all!

Once back in London I joined the aforementioned Ben Nunney and Co. for a few drinks in the hotel Champagne bar before retiring to bed, ready for an early start.

Regtransfer for Windows 8 Main Page
Regtransfers for Windows 8 Main Page

At 9:30 sharp on Sunday Morning we started again, and I spent much of the day working on my Regtransfers Application for Windows 8. Between working on that and networking with my fellow MSPs, in the social sense — not the HTTP sense 😉 — I also continued writing a presentation I intend to present at university called “Developing Windows 8: Live Tiles, Snap View, Search and Share”.

Developing For Windows 8 Presentation Title Slide
Developing For Windows 8 Presentation Title Slide

After mentioning it to Dean Meehan, he suggested I ask Phil Cross if I could present it to the rest of my fellow MSPs. So I did. The presentation went quite well, and I hope that everyone took something away from it. I was particularly pleased because after I’d finished presenting a Mechanical Engineering student came and asked for a copy of the presentation and said it included the best instructions on how to implement the “Live Tiles” feature he’d seen! Always nice to hear! You can view the presentation for yourself here.

Overall I had a fantastic weekend full of catching up with old friends from Dublin, Programming and Comedy, what more could you want? A big thank you to Phil Cross, Ben Nunney and the rest of the Microsoft Staff and presenters involved!

Danny

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Life

Microsoft Tech Center Day

A while ago I posted about how I had won the Windows Phone 7 Student Incentive Competition which allowed me to “spend a day honing (my) skills and (my) apps with (Microsoft’s) deep technical experts”. In a fantastic turn of events my housemate and great friend Rob Crocombe also won the competition meaning we could meet up in London, travel into Reading together and have a catch up after the long Summer Holidays at the same time as learning some really cool stuff at the Microsoft HQ.

When we eventually got to reading around 10:30 — I’d set off from home around 7:30 — we were given a security card to allow us to go around the building and shown to the demo room in the Microsoft Technology Center.

The demo room had seats along the back and a stage like area with several different sections, showing an office scenario, to a home scenario, to a living room scenario with various computers, display technologies and communications tech. Slap bang in the middle of the room was a “Samsung SUR40 with Microsoft Pixel Sense”. Even the softies laugh at how bad the product name is since a certain other piece of Microsoft Technology cannibalized its original name, Microsoft Surface, to retain its secrecy!

The Student App Winners, Including Rob and I join Dr. David Brown round the SUR40 running NUIverse for a group photo
The Student App Winners, Including Rob and I join Dr. David Brown round the SUR40 running NUIverse for a group photo

The first talk we had was about NUI – Natural User Interfaces – and how they are changing the way computing works. We were very lucky to have this talk delivered to us by Dr. David Brown, the man who single handedly created NUIverse — an application which allows you to explore the universe using a natural user interface on the Samsung SUR40. We wound back all the way to Command Line Interfaces and how GUI greatly improved on the usability of computer systems for the average person, but still required some training to use, whereas Natural User Interface attempts to require no, or as little as possible, training to use.

NUIverse by Dr. David Brown - which was demo'd to us - Image credit: Mobilemag.com
NUIverse by Dr. David Brown – which was demo’d to us – Image credit: Mobilemag.com

We spoke in depth about how some parts of NUI, such as touch screens are already mainstream whilst some others, such as object identification isn’t.

After this fascinating talk we went on a break for lunch (Tip: Go to as many Microsoft events as you can, the free food is always great ;)) in which we spoke to other competition winners. After the break we were shown into a conference room where Ben Nunney — the same man who did the Windows Phone 7 Camp at Hull University at the beginning of the year —  was getting ready to do a talk on preparing for Windows 8 application development.

The talk was on the same day as Windows 8 was released to manufacturing (also known as “going gold”) meaning that the code was finalized and sent off to the device manufacturers. In other words Windows 8 version 1 was finished. There was a clear excitement around the campus, especially with Ben — for whom it was his second RTM day having joined the company just after “that operating system between XP and Windows 7 that didn’t exist” was released (Also known as Windows Vista :P)

Ben’s talk focused on introducing people to Windows 8 from a complete novice stand point and built up to showing off the development tools and telling us where and how we could get more help to port our Windows Phone apps or create entirely new apps for the system. A highlight of the talk was trying to make the Visual Studio Windows 8 Simulator work in the simulator, A.K.A “simception” 😛

After this talk the 10 of us sat down with Phil Cross — the Academic Audience Manager at MS UK — to discuss how to improve the Microsoft UK Student developer group, and how some of the talks could be improved, made more interesting and become more likely to have an affect on the number of people actively developing for Microsoft platforms. I said I thought students needed greater access to systems such as tablets for testing, perhaps through borrowing them from Microsoft and that “Dev Camps” at universities needed to be less about convincing people the platform was worth buying – almost like a sales pitch – and more about showing them developer opportunities and practically how to do things.

Obviously there are some logistical and financial reasons why not everything is possible, but it was good to have the dialogue. In the end I think both the students who won the competition and the Academic Staff at Microsoft both got quite a lot out of the day — I certainly learnt a lot and enjoyed myself.

Danny