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.



Microtalks at the Computer Science Christmas Bash!

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 ūüėČ

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!


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
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 ūüėČ — 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!


Microsoft Student Partner University

The University of Hull Microsoft User Group

Part of my job as a Microsoft Student Partner is to inspire people to use, love and develop technology. I, for one, am absolutely passionate about what I do, and love every second of development and learning that comes along with my degree. I know many other people at my University are the same — you have to be to do well, in my opinion. I wanted there to be a place for people like this to come together and collaborate, particularly if they’re interested in Microsoft technologies — So I made one.

Technology Enthusiasts, welcome to The University of Hull Microsoft User Group.

The user group, which you can find on Facebook here, is a place for people to come together and talk about Microsoft Technologies, ask for help with using them or developing for them and to make friends with similar interests. Just ‘Like’ the page to get started.

As the Admin of the group I will provide you with information I think might be useful, make you aware of events all over the country that would be useful for you and help you find any information, contacts or resources you might need.

Outside of the¬†Facebook¬†page I will be giving lectures on how to get started developing for Microsoft Products, particularly Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 — as these are the technologies peoples are most interested in according to a poll I made. The first lecture will be dealing with how to implement Windows 8 Features including the search charm, live tiles and split view. Keep your eyes peeled on the Facebook group and this blog for more information about dates and times.

That’s all for now. Get signed up to the¬†Facebook¬†page and hopefully together we can make a community


Conferences Microsoft Student Partner

Microsoft Student Partner North European Summit 2012

Unfortunately this is the only picture I have of all the British MSP Team together…

About a month ago I was on the weekly MSP Lync Online Meeting when Academic Audience Manager Phil Cross mentioned that there was an opportunity for some British MSPs to go to Dublin for 3 days for a North European MSP Summit. At the event MSPs from many North European countries would come together, under one roof, and discuss how to best utilize the MSP program, make some apps together and generally learn more about being an MSP and Microsoft as a company in general. I think it was fair to say I was more than eager to go.

After booking my tickets for a flight and 6 separate train journeys to and from the airport I eagerly awaited the 21st of November!


It was an early start for a student — 6am — to get to the train station for my 7:30 train to Manchester¬†Piccadilly. I got to Manchester around 10 and got another shorter service from Piccadilly to the International Airport. By 11 I was in the departure lounge, after having a bottle of coke and my toothpaste taken from me by security and¬†eagerly¬†awaiting, but at the same time dreading my first plane flight without my family.

Before we boarded the plane a delegation from the Irish Parliament got off it!
Before we boarded the plane a delegation from the Irish Parliament got off it! Hence all the police

I really enjoy flying, I think it lends a certain perspective to life. It makes you think about how small everything is in relation to the planet, combine that with my work on my Solar System Simulation for 2D graphics — and you can think about how small the planet is compared to the universe. Here are some pictures of the “patchwork quilt” that makes up the land between Manchester and the Irish Sea and some interesting things in the sea itself, including a massive ferry that looks absolutely tiny.

"Patchwork Quilt" England
“Patchwork Quilt” England
Spot the ferry
Spot the ferry

When we got to Dublin Airport I bumped into a fellow MSP, James Thorne, and together we caught the Air Coach to Leopards Town, where both our hotel and the Microsoft Campus were situated. Whilst James and I wandered around the Technology Park looking for the Microsoft Campus I jokingly quipped “Just look for the most boring building, that’ll be the Microsoft one” — so I was¬†surprised¬†when I found Building one, pictured below, which I think is quite a nice looking place. However, we were meeting our fellow MSPs in building 2.

Microsoft Ireland Building 1
Microsoft Ireland Building 1
Our Welcome to Ireland
Our Welcome to Ireland – Cead Mile Failte – Gaelic for “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes”

Because our flights were slightly later in the day than other peoples, James and I missed the beginning of the welcome talk, but did turn up in time to introduce ourselves using a slideshow we had previously prepared. You can see my slide below:

My MSP Profile Slide for the North European Summit - Windows 8 Style!
My MSP Profile Slide for the North European Summit – Windows 8 Style!

We were supposed to show off our aspirations, some previous projects and some contact methods. I think this slide does that well!

After every MSP had introduced themselves — and there were well over 100 of us — we had a short presentation from the Microsoft European Marketing Manager about Windows 8 and¬†Microsoft’s¬†strategy surrounding it. After this we went for a meal back at building 1, which is where the Microsoft Employees normally eat. It was really nice, I really could get used to working and living around a Microsoft Campus!

The OSO Restaurant In Microsoft Ireland Building 1
The OSO Restaurant In Microsoft Ireland Building 1

After dinner we had country presentations, which were¬†incredibly¬†entertaining as well as informative. Each of the countries represented at the event had a 5 – 10 minute powerpoint about what makes their country interesting and unique, some even bought¬†alcohol¬†and traditional food for us to try. One of the amusing things which I hadn’t expected was the amount of friendly rivalry between the Scandinavian countries. ūüėõ It was all in jest however :). Our presentation had everything you would expect of a British Country presentation, self¬†deprecation¬† sarcasm and wit — however we did learn that British¬†Humor¬†doesn’t make a lot of sense to some of our fellow¬†Europeans.

Microsoft - Work Hard, Play Hard
Microsoft – Work Hard, Play Hard

As the main aim of the event was to aid with networking between MSPs we all felt it was appropriate to go for a night on the town in Dublin together with our European Comrads, and a gret night was had by all.


The next morning we were straight back to work to learn about how to make games for Windows 8 using the HTML 5 Canvas and associated Javascript API’s. This was indeed almost identical to the code I was already using in my implementation of my Solar System Simulation – so it was great to see I could use the skills I had learnt at university to make interesting HTML5 powered games for Windows 8.

After this we learnt more about the more “traditional” way of making gaming applications for Microsofts Desktop OS, XNA. XNA isn’t officially supported in the “Metro”/Modern UI Windows Environment, however a company called The Mono Project provide an API called MonoGame which allows you to use your XNA Code, with some minor alterations. I still think that it is a shame that Microsoft themselves aren’t officially supporting XNA any more but MonoGame is an acceptable replacement.

Learning Mono became immediately useful because for we were then split up into teams to make a game. I remember joking with a friend that I was finding it hard enough to remember all the British peoples names, and I was worried that with¬†Scandinavian¬†people in my group I would appear rude by being unable to remember or prenounce their names. Fortunately this wasn’t too much of an issue as I was paired up with an Englishman called Tom, a Norweigan called Patrick and a Swede called Michael. However we were also teamed up with a Latvian, whos named none of us could pronounce, so we called him G. ūüôā

First things first, we had to come up with a team name. We all thought Michael’s idea of “Too Inappropriate¬†To Succeed” was funny, so we went with that. The next thing we had to do was come up with a concept for our game. None of us could really come up with a good, original game idea off the top of our head so I suggested we all wrote down a Location, Action and Character Word on a small note. We then¬†collated¬†all of the words of each type together, so all the locations were in one pile, all the actions were in one pile and all the characters were in one pile. We then chose one of each word type at random, leaving us with Seal, In An Oil Barrel and Pick Axe. Based around these words we came up with an idea for a game called “Seal Summit”

Seal Summit is a double¬†entendre because the game is about a seal reaching the top, or summit, of an oil barrel it is trapped in — but the game was also¬†devised¬†at the North European MSP Summit. In the game you play as a seal which has been trapped in a very very large oil barrel. You attempt to get to the top of the¬†barrel¬†by using your pick axe and trying to avoid falling objects. Yes, it is a tad strange. I have very little of the game to show off so far as we had a very limited period of time in which to come up with the context and start coding, however if you keep checking back soon I plan to work on it more over the Christmas break and may have something to show off soon!

After we had worked on our group project for a few hours we had another presentation — in fact my¬†favorite¬†of the whole 3 days — on how to give good presentations. Some of the tips we were given were basic common sense once you had thought about them, but had just never¬†occurred¬†to me. There were also some more intelligent ways of making yourself appear more confident and help you achieve the end goal of any presentation, which is to make people interested in the information you have to provide.

The tips included:

  • Lowering the lights counteracts the effect of stress on your eyes — which can give away to people you’re not entirely confident
  • If you need a moment to pause travel across the stage, that way it looks like you’re moving rather than struggling to think of something
  • Playing some low volume music in the background can be calming
  • Slides should have a small amount of detail, people are very visual and will just stare at the powerpoint rather than listen to you if it has too much on it
  • Don’t worry about your bladder, your body stops you from needing the toilet whilst in that sort of situation ūüėõ

After the fantastic presentation on presentations we had a feedback session with the MSP Worldwide Program Lead, Michelle Fleming, about what we felt could be improved within the program, and what her ideas were for the future of the program. Some of the points made were particularly interesting

  • Some of the website and much of the online portal for the program were outsourced to other¬†companies, they failed to deliver when the website was taken offline for several weeks. From now on a lot of the work will be carried out by MSPs for MSPs.
  • There’s going to be greater access to devices for MSPs to run and test software on, and show off to people
  • There’s gong to be a better system for sharing best practices for demonstrations, events and the like

All of this is bound to make the MSP program better and more effective both for the MSPs themselves and Microsoft. I can’t wait to see it all implemented.

After the feedback session we all had a period of free time to spend at our hotel before we all got on a coach to a very special location in Dublin.

Can you guess where it is yet? St. James' Gate Guinness Storehouse
Can you guess where it is yet? St. James’ Gate Guinness Storehouse

The Guiness storehouse was an interesting place to go, and something that you simply have to do if you’re in Dublin. We were fortunate and lucky enough to have Microsoft treat us to dinner in the¬†restaurant, which gives you a 360 degree view of the beautiful capital city of The Republic of Ireland.

Its fair to see my fellow MSP’s and I had a great time. It’s a shame I only had time to briefly say goodbye to everyone before catching my early flight the next day. I’d like to say a big thank you to Phil Cross,¬†Michelle Fleming, Microsoft Ireland and everyone else involved in making such a great 3 days. I’ve made some friends which I’ve kept in contact with a can’t wait to see at the next MSP event and learnt some useful skills not only for within the technology industry, but life in general.


Microsoft Student Partner

The Perks of Working with Microsoft

Reasonably often I hear my friends saying how they’re dreading a certain lecture or hate writing a certain essay they have to do. I’ve never really¬†experienced¬†that, I love what I do and I think I get to do a lot of really cool stuff — from making games to mucking around with robots. Another of the things I adore about this subject is the¬†opportunities¬† you get that a lot of other subjects don’t seem to get, a good example of this was yesterday when I got two emails from Microsoft.

The first email was to confirm to me that my free tickets to the App Builder Showcase at Modern Jago in London had been reserved. This event is particularly exciting because the special guest is Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft and one of my¬†favorite¬†people in the technology industry because of his¬†famous enthusiasm for what he does.¬†I can’t wait to meet the man himself and hopefully learn a lot of things about both the company and the industry as a whole from a man who’s been there since the foundation.

Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft - Somehow this man is in charge of one of the largest companies in the world ;)
Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft

The second email was to confirm my place at the Western European Microsoft Student Partner Summit in Dublin, Ireland. Microsoft are very kindly paying all my expenses, including getting there, staying in a hotel and all my food for the 3 days. They will also be putting on a range of events and activities ranging from learning about porting XNA to Windows 8 & Networking with MVPs and MSPs to going for Dinner at the Guinness Storehouse (Yay! ;)).

I shall of course be blogging about my experiences at both events, so check back for those!

And it would be rude not to end he post with a big thank-you to Microsoft for being so good to me, particularly Phil Cross and everyone else on the Academic Audience Team.


Microsoft Student Partner

Danny Brown – Microsoft Student Partner (MSP)

Yesterday I received an email from Phil Cross, Academic Audience Manager at Microsoft, welcoming me to the Microsoft Student Partner scheme Рwhich I applied to be part of a few weeks ago. But what is a Microsoft Student partner?

Blake Pender from the Microsoft UK Students Group explained it well:

The main responsibilities of an MSP are to act as a liaison between the University and Microsoft and to evangelise technology (specifically, Microsoft technologies) and to encourage and inspire students from a technological background, by method of technical demonstrations and presentations.

Essentially I’m supposed to get people in the University more interested in Technology, especially those from Microsoft. I’ll also be expected to keep up to date with the latest Microsoft technologies myself , be an active part of the online community — including monthly VoIP calls on Microsoft Lync with other MSPs and The Academic Audience Team — and liaise between Microsoft and Hull’s¬†Department of Computer Science if need be. ūüôā

In return I get access to a full MSDN subscription giving me access to over £2000 of Microsoft Products for free, as well as a chance to network with my fellow MVPs and of course attend Microsoft sponsored events. It will also look good on my CV. I look forward to joining the other 45 MVPs around the country and getting as involved with the community as possible.