Tag Archive | Hull CS Blogs Workgroup

Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 Version 2.1 Released

Hull Computer Science Blogs Version 2.1 in the Windows Store

You may remember a very similar Blog Title from a week ago, saying that version 2.0 of Hull CS Blogs had been released for Windows 8. After some feedback from Rob Crocombe and noticing a few things that irritated me I have made a few minor improvements and released version 2.1, which you can update to from the Windows 8 Store or download from here.

Changelog:

  • Changed the name on the Start Tile from “Hull Computer Science Blogs” to “Hull CS Blogs” for Aesthetic Reasons
  • Added the label “Latest Blog” above the latest blog on the home page, so now the blog title on the picture has more context
  • Improved performance on caching, meaning the initial start up of the app is much faster
  • Added “friendly dates” to each blog tile – e.g. “2 hours ago”, “3 Days ago” or “1 month ago” rather than “16/03/2012 16:45”
  • Made it so you can see who Authored each blog post on the main page
  • Improved UI for Split Views
  • Fixed a bug where the Latest Blog sometimes wouldn’t appear

I hope you enjoy the application! Please rate and review, and don’t hesitate to get in contact if you have any bug reports, ideas or feedback!

Thanks,
Danny

Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 Version 2.0 Released

Since I changed my domain from DanTonyBrown.com to DannyBrown.net my Hull Computer Science Blogs application has experienced a few difficulties. This is because it looks for a list of Contributors (blog writers) from the old domain, which I totally forgot about before I let it expire.

Having noticed the problems I set out fixing it right away. Whilst doing this I also added a few extra features.

I completely rewrote the user interface, making it more touch friendly, scale-able across all screen sizes and including a snapped view for every page. Below is a gallery detailing all the changes, in each instance the old UI is shown above and the new improved UI is below:

I also added in ATOM support so you can now enjoy the blog feeds of people who use the standard which competes with RSS, such as those who use Google’s Blogger Platform to post. This includes Dr. David Parker amongst others.

You can download the application here or just go to the Windows 8 Store to complete the upgrade now.

I hope you enjoy the app, and as always I love any feedback you may have!

Danny

Windows 8 | Elite Welcome Pack

I posted not too long ago about how, by submitting my Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 App, I had joined the Windows 8 | Elite Program. On Saturday I had a parcel delivered and was pleasantly surprised to find it was a Windows 8 | Elite welcome pack!

Contained within were:

  • A Windows 8 Branded Pen
  • A Windows 8 Branded Pencil
  • A Windows 8 Branded 4GB Memory Stick
  • An Invitation to the Windows 8 Release party at Modern Jago in London on the 26th October
  • A Welcome Letter
  • And most interestingly a Windows 8 app design sketch pad, which I’ve used to plan UI enhancements to my app 🙂

Its a nice pack, especially considering the Windows 8 | Elite is totally free to join, as is the Windows Dev Centre if you’re a student, so my advice is to click here and get involved!

Danny

Hull CS Blogs for Windows Phone v1.1

A few days ago an update which I’d written for the Hull CS blogs windows phone app went live.

Here are the release notes:

  • Updated splash screen to match upcoming Windows 8 MX Style App Splash Screen
  • Fixed a bug which meant that the last blog posts “abstract” could be covered up by the app bar
  • Various Minor Bug Fixes

🙂

I hope you all enjoy the latest version of the app

Danny

Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 and the Windows 8 | Elite

Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 - Main Page

I’m very happy to be able to tell you all that on Monday morning I submitted Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 to the Windows 8 Store. The app supports most of the features that the Windows Phone and Android apps do, including caching of blog posts and tweets. The information source used for all the contributors will also be updated this evening, adding a plethora of new contributors that we picked up in our recent marketing drive. This will add people to all 3 apps.

Below you can see some screenshots of the app, and above you can see a screenshot of the main page.

Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 - Blog Viewer

Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 – Blog Viewer

Rather than throw you out to internet explorer every time you want to view a blog you can actually read blogs embedded within the application. This is also supported in Windows 8 Split view – which allows you to use two apps at once by making one smaller and pinned to the side – as you can see in the image below.

Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 - Split View

Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 – Split View

Each contributor also has their own page within the application which shows their twitter stream as well as all of their latest blog posts.

Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 - Contributor Viewer

Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8 – Contributor Viewer

Overall developing for Windows 8 has been a positive experience , especially porting from windows phone. I was able to retain a lot of the structure of the program as well as many of the objects from that project.

Another big bonus for making the app was the ability to join the Windows 8 | Elite program which, according to the website allows you to:

Elevate your app with the Windows 8 | Elite Programme. As an Elite member, you will be invited to exclusive networking and training events as well as opportunities to enhance the discoverability, quality and business value of your Windows 8 app.

To get into the Elite program you have to have written and submitted a Windows 8 Modern Experience app by October 26th 2012 — the day windows 8 becomes generally available. Due to the fact that I have already done that I’m now in and apparently a Welcome Pack full of goodies is on its way to me. I shall update this blog when I find out what it contains! I’ve also been invited to a Windows 8 Launch party in London on the 26th, which is also quite exciting.

As the program progresses I’ll also receive access to extra training, help and resources from Microsoft including things not dissimilar from the Windows 8 camp I went to a few months ago.

Exciting times.

Danny

Introducing Hull CS Blogs for Windows 8

This week I’ve been working on porting my Hull CS Blogs app for Windows Phone 7 to Windows 8 (The PC &  Tablet Operating System).

I’ve been able to use a lot of my code from the WP7 app, but making some changes. For example saving and writing files is now done through Local Storage using StorageFolder, StorageFile and Stream objects rather than through Isolated Storage on Windows Phone. It took me a while to get used to the new API’s but now I understand them I actually prefer them and think they make more sense. For example my code to load an XML file on Windows Phone 7 Looked like this:

public static void LoadXML(string Location, out XDocument XMLFile)
        {
            // Get the local storage directory for this application
            using (IsolatedStorageFile IsoFile = IsolatedStorageFile.GetUserStoreForApplication())
            {
                //Open the file and make it into a stream
                using (IsolatedStorageFileStream IsoSteam = new IsolatedStorageFileStream(Location, FileMode.Open, IsoFile))
                {
                    XMLFile = XDocument.Load(IsoSteam);
                }
            }
        }

And in Windows 8 it now looks like this:

        public async static Task LoadXMLAsync(string Location)
        {
            // Get the local storage directory for this application
            StorageFolder storageArea = Windows.Storage.ApplicationData.Current.LocalFolder;

            // Get the file itself
            StorageFile storageFile = await storageArea.GetFileAsync(Location);

            // Read the file in as a stream
            IRandomAccessStream randomAccessFileStream = await storageFile.OpenReadAsync();
            Stream fileStream = randomAccessFileStream.AsStreamForRead((int)randomAccessFileStream.Size);

            return XDocument.Load(fileStream);
        }

Whilst the Windows 8 code appears to be longer, to me it makes more sense, and that can be more important in projects such as ours in which the code is going to be handed over to other software developers. First you find the directory, then you find the file, then you use it. It’s the exact same way of accessing data as people do in real life, or through windows explorer.

At the moment I’m still working on the user interface. An interesting challenge of Windows 8 development, which I haven’t had to deal with before in Windows Phone development, is the large amount of different screen sizes and resolutions that devices can have. In Windows Phone 7 there was one size,  800 x 480px.

The Windows 8 version of Hull CS Blogs should be available on the Windows Store before Windows 8 is available to the general public on the 26th October.

Danny

Introducing The Hull Computer Science Blogs Workgroup

I’ve found that for projects like this is useful to have a Facebook group as most people at uni check Facebook more often than their Email Inbox

You may recall that earlier this year I started work on a Windows Phone 7 application for HullCompSciBlogs.com, this quickly progressed into a full scale project to make sure that the 3 smartphone operating systems with the highest market share had an application available. So far we already have a Windows Phone 7 app available on the Windows Phone Marketplace and an Android App available on Google Play.

Cameron is still working hard on the iOS application and expects that it will be available through iTunes in the very near future! When we were discussing this we both agreed that the back end system needed a complete revamp.

When I was designing the Windows Phone 7 application I decided on using XML as the data interchange format, mainly because I was getting used to using LINQ which means that an XML based solution is very easy to implement in C# for Windows Phone. I never expected that it would turn into a full scale project and instead expected that it would remain my own personal project. Probably a silly idea in hindsight considering that the Hull CS Blogs very fundamental idea is that of a community. Not only is XML not as well supported out-of-the-box on certain other fruity platforms, its not the best format for the job. In my opinion JSON is much better because it provides the same data in a much smaller file due to its simpler syntax.

The Data Interchange Format is just one niggle with the system, the other is that it is at the moment a bit of a pain to update. I have to manually edit an XML file to create, edit or update information on featured applications and contributors — which is based on my portion of Freeside, so no one else has access rights in order to update it themselves. There’s also currently no system for someone to submit their blog to our system and have it reviewed before becoming publically viewable. So the addition, removal and editing of contributor profiles and blog feeds isn’t exactly the perfect solution at the moment.

The final big issue with the system is that we simply don’t keep enough data on our contributors. The system we are currently proposing will keep the following details for contributors:

  • A display picture
  • Their full name
  • URL’s for both their website and blog RSS feed
  • Twitter Username
  • LinkedIn Username
  • Reddit Username
  • Date they joined HCSB
  • Study Year
  • Study Programme

Whereas at the moment we only keep their Name, Twitter username and Blog RSS url. We’ll also keep information on applications developed by students and lecturers who attend the university including:

  • Platform
  • Release date
  • Name
  • Version
  • Price
  • License type
  • Description

At this point we need to think about security because we carry a lot of information. It then becomes a bit more of a project that needs to be handled by more than one person, and instead handled by a team of competent computer scientists, and wheres better to source them than from the list of contributors itself? Therefore yesterday I put together the Hull CS Blogs Workgroup consisting of the current mobile application developers, John Van Rij — who set HCSB up initially — and a few people I thought would be helpful in producing a back end.

The basic aims of The HCSBW is to create a community based around Computer Science at the University of Hull based on an open JSON api that can be expanded on and improved by University students for years to come (one of the reasons why the whole system will only be written in language formally taught within the university itself) allowing students to improve their career prospects by getting their story out there for employers to see.

It will all begin properly in freshers week where the team and I will be presenting to the new first year computer scientists in an attempt to get them interested in Hull Comp Sci Blogs and indeed blogging itself. I’ll be sure to write about how our software project and social project of getting people on board works.

Danny.