Between studying hard for my masters degree — and applying for jobs for when it ends — I have managed to find some time to set up a new website called CSBlogs.com
People who have been reading this blog for a few years will have seen HullCompSciBlogs.com mentioned a few times, for those that haven’t it was a service which aggregated all of the blog feeds of computer science students at the University of Hull.
John Van Rij did a great job of keeping that service online, but unfortunately doesn’t have time to maintain it anymore. Since the service went down I have grown to miss it — I guess I didn’t realise how much enjoyment I get from seeing how well everyone is doing from back in Hull — current students, alumni and even lecturers.
In order to resolve this problem I set up CSBlogs.com with the aim of getting all of the Hull Computer Science bloggers and others from around the country onboard.
The project is entirely open source, under the MIT license, and can be forked, modified and improved by the community on Github.
The website itself is hosted on Microsoft Azure and utilises CloudFlare to provide security, analytics and a global content delivery network. Node.js is used as the backend programming language and the MongoDB NoSQL database is used for persistent data storage. Nodes packages are used extensively, including Express.js for routing, Handlebars for data-binding to the front end and LESS-Middleware to improve CSS development.
Complicated acronyms aside I have worked hard to make setting up a local development environment and contributing source as easy as possible for beginners via the instructions I have written on the homepage of the Github repository. I would really recommend any 1st or 2nd year students give it a go — open source development looks great on your CV! And if you need any help contact me as per the instructions.
We are currently in the process of setting up all of the required frameworks and technologies and writing guides for how to get involved (this has actually been one of the more challenging and interesting parts of the project so far) and hope to have a working minimum viable product in the next week.
At this point I would like to thank Charlotte Godley, Alex Pringle & Rob Crocombe for their extensive help in getting the project to where it is now. Charlotte has taken on a role of project management, Alex has developed a rudimentary database controller and Rob has been working on implementing less.js support and developing a theme for the site.
I will keep the blog updated with progress on the project.
As some of you may have read on Rob Miles’ blog, I will be running one of the events at the Computer Science departmental bash this year. The event is called Microtalks and gives any student who wants to be involved 5 minutes in front of an audience of their peers. The time limit, along with a limit of 4 power-point slides mean that each students presentation will be short, snappy and interesting.
The idea of Microtalks is to get both students and lecturers here at the University of Hull sharing knowledge and success with one another, as an extension of the Hull Comp Sci Blogs initiative. Examples of things people could talk about include:
- Talking about an open source project they’ve contributed to
- Talking about a game or piece of software they have produced
- A cool bit of technology they have discovered, like a new programming language or methodology
- Anything, in fact, to do with technology!
I will be talking about my recent contributions to LibreOffice, which you can read about here.
All participants will be getting prizes provided to me by Microsoft through the Microsoft Student Partner Program, a big thanks to Rebecca Moore and Phil Cross for their contributions. There may be some even better swag for the most interesting talks 😉
If you want to talk about something cool in front of your fellow Computer Scientists sign up by clicking here, more information about the event including the time and location can be found on Rob’s blog here.
I hope to see you all there, if not to present yourself, then to listen to your friends and peers!
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.
- 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!
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!
Microsoft is really heating up its drive to get more applications in the Windows Store, as part of this push they have a few competitions on — which, if you’re a developer you should definitely check out!
One of these is the Creative Bloq App Generator competition, which is described below:
Whether you’re an experienced Windows developer or a newcomer to the platform, there’s an incredible range of prizes to be won – and EVERYONE who enters has a chance to win. As well as prizes for the Ten Best Apps and the overall Grand Prize winner, there are also 28 daily draws, where winners will be randomly chosen to receive some fantastic prizes. All you need to do is register here, either with a live app in the Windows Store or with an app you are building – or even just thinking about building. And as soon as your app is available for download in the Windows Store, you’ll be entered into the draws and competition.
I signed up to the competition with my Hull Computer Science Blogs application for Windows 8, and much to my surprise received an email a few days ago which read:
Good morning Daniel,
Congratulations you are a winner!
Your app Hull Computer Science Blogshas been chosen at random as one of the Creative Bloq and Windows 8 App Generator competition daily prize winners.
You have won a 32GB Windows tablet (make and model TBC), this will be despatched to you no later than the end of January 2013.
I can’t wait to receive my tablet in January and find out what make and model it is 😛 You can be sure to find a receive of it here at some point in February,
Last week I got an email from Microsoft saying
Congratulations! Hull Computer Science Blogs, release 1 is now in the Windows Store. Use this link to your app’s listing in the Windows Store to let others know about your app.
Because we just added your app to the Windows Store, it might take some time before your customers will see it in their search results.
To track the performance of Hull Computer Science Blogs, open your Dashboard.
Keep up the good work!
The Windows Store team
So you can now click here to go to the Windows Store and download the Hull Computer Science blogs app for Windows 8.
The app features
- A Windows 8 Modern Experiance User Interface
- A list of the latest blogs list with a built in blog reader
- A list of all contributors and the ability to view their social networking feeds and latest blogs
I’d love any feedback you have, either posted on this blog post or emailed to me at Danny@Dantonybrown.com, get downloading!
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!
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
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.
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.
Each contributor also has their own page within the application which shows their twitter stream as well as all of their latest blog posts.
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.
Scalextric is cool! Especially when you mix it up with Computers! Thanks to Rob Miles for all the images in this post
After our presentation on Thursday morning we were conscripted to help out at the Freshers welcome party, not being one to turn down an afternoon of computer games and free alcohol the rest of the Hull CS Blogs team and I turned up early to help set things up 🙂
Our first job was to move some tables around to make a play area for the Skalextrics set that was going to be the centerpiece of the party, we then wen’t apart fitting the pieces of track — including a bridge — together and doing so was just as much fun as I remember from when I was a kid.
What isn’t the same as I remember things is pretty much everything else about the car racing game, now your cars are partially controlled by a computer — you can set up proper races rather than arguing over who won, interdependently change the acceleration speed and max speed of each car, and even assign virtual fuel limits forcing your cars to take pit stops every few laps or run out of gas and stop working! It’s more like a computer game than a real game!
I spent a lot of the party by the Rob’s laptop which was controlling the cars as well as meeting new freshers and talking about the Hull CS Blogs platform. There were however lots of other things to do such as playing rock band with computer science lecturers, or wii tennis with freshers! 😛
After a while I claimed my two free kopparbergs and a few sandwiches. At the end of the evening there was a quiz, which we took part in but were not allowed to win 😛 It was good fun anyway and featured classic Rob Miles questions such as:
Q: Which cheese is made backwards?
Turns out we actually got the high score of 41, shame I wasn’t allowed to win 2 years in a row 😉 It was great fun to go to the party and as always it was brilliant to meet more people passionate about the course and hopefully some future bloggers!