Some of you may remember a post from a few months ago about an application I was developing for Windows 8 for the Cherished Number Plate Dealer Regtransfers Ltd. Since then it has been put on the back burner a bit because of other commitment, but as of today you can download it from the Windows Store.
The app has undergone a few changes since I last blogged about it, including replacing the YouTube video feed with a feed of recent celebrity interviews and removing twitter altogether, due to changes in their API. On top of this I have added a name search, which finds numberplates that might interest you based on your name.
Below you can see a gallery showcasing the features of the app:
I really hope people enjoy using the new application, I put a lot of work into making it a nice and native-feeling application. This seems to work because, as of the time of writing, the app has all 5 star reviews.
You can download the application by searching for “Regtransfers” in the Windows 8 Store or by clicking here.
I will be releasing an update on October 16th adding in support for a lot of the new exciting Windows 8.1 features, including being able to embed magazine PDFs directly within the application. Until then, if you have any feedback don’t hesitate to contact me!
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!
Today I was looking at the newly revamped developer dashboard on www.dev.windows.com where you can see a lot of stats about the applications you have uploaded to the Windows 8 Store. Whilst I was having a look round I noticed that you could see which web pages linked to your application in the store. One of the websites which had given my app the most “hits” was one called Fractus Learning.
I thought I would head over to their website and have a look at what they had to say about my application and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had written a list about the Top 10 application for Students and Teachers, and my app featured at number 8 — how apt.
In particular Fractus said the app is:
Ideal for older students, The Solar System Simulation allows users to explore the affects of gravity on land masses in space.
I was especially pleased with this after reading what Fractus are all about:
Fractus Learning is a growing team based in Dublin, Ireland working with educators around the globe to promote cutting edge technology skills and tools. We strive to build amazing learning environments where students are engaged and inspired and classrooms that are a joy to teach, work and learn in.
Our goal is to motivate, excite and enhance the teaching skill set with the use of technology, making sure educators are always on the cutting edge.
So you could say they know what they’re on about!
Thanks Fractus, look out for some excting updates to the simulation soon!
I was looking at the statistics for my Windows 8 Application, Solar System Simulation, the other day when I stumbled upon a review by someone who goes by the name of “vikram” from the United States:
Review Title: I found it so useful
Helped me teach solar system concepts to my 5yr old
I must admit it made me smile thinking that I may have helped a father or mother teach their child about the vast expanses of space 🙂 Even if the “simulation” isn’t incredibly accurate it’s nice to see its useful on some level.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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!
In between my Networking Coursework and going to lectures I’ve been working on an application for my uncles company Regtransfers, on both the Windows 8 and Windows Phone platforms.
The application allows you to:
Search for Personalised Numberplates
Submit and enquirey about any plate
Purchase a plate
Read any edition of “The World of Personalised Number Plates” — The Regtransfers Magazine
View all the videos on the Regtransfers YouTube Page
Read all the status updates on the @Reg_Transfers Twitter Account
Windows 8 App
The Windows 8 version of the application runs on both Tablets and traditional PCs. It is an out-and-out “Modern Experience” application, including support for Live Tiles, the Search and Share charms and Snap View.
The Main Page
The main page of the application displays the cover of the latest magazine as well as buttons which navigate you to pages where you can subscribe to physical editions of the magazine, read all editions of the magazine in PDF version and read more information about the magazine. Clicking the cover of the latest magazine opens a page showing more information about it, from which you can choose to read a PDF version of it.
At the top of the main page is the Regtransfers Logo and a search box. You can search for anything, including your name or initials and the application will return to you a list of relevant number plates. It will also allow you to filter your search results from some price brackets, so you can find plates more suited to your means.
As you can see from the above screenshot, you can also invoke the search page using the search charm. The search charm is a way of searching any application, file or setting from anywhere within the operating system. This means that even if you’re in another app or on the start screen you can still search for numberplates by calling in the charm bar and selecting the Regtransfers app from the list of apps underneath the search box.
Viewing a Plate
When you select a number plate from the search page, or select a recently viewed plate from the main page you are shown the View Plate page. From here you can customize the acrylic plate you can optionally choose to purchase with said numberplate.
The page allows you to view both sides of the plate — the front, white plate of course having no flag –, choose which flag to have on the plate, choose a border and decide if you want to buy a set of acrylic plates with the number plate or not. If not you’ll receive your plate on a retention certificate.
From here you can also Share your plate using the built in share charm, above you can see an example of me sharing to the mail app, but you can share the plate to any app that accepts share using HTML, RTF or Text data. This includes posting to facebook using the people app, or twitter using MetroTwit.
Buying a Plate
The process of buying the plate is dealt with by an embedded web form. All data is transferred over a secure HTTPS connection, and the Regtransfers website is PCI Compliant, so all credit card details are totally safe 🙂
Making an Enquiry
Making an enquiry is a simple case of filling in a form and hitting submit
Watching a YouTube Video
Using the fantastic “MyToolkit” library I work out the location of the YouTube .mp4 file and embed it directly within the application using a custom video player which I made to be themed the same as the rest of the application. As with the rest of the application this works in both snapped view and full screen mode.
This page also allows you to share a link to the YouTube video, and gives you the option to view the video in your default browser if you would prefer.
Subscribing to Regtransfers: The World of Personal Number Plates Magazine
One of the most important parts of the application is the magazine sign up. This is why its displayed front and center on the main page, when customers sign up for a magazine they also receive a personalized list of plates they might like to purchase by email. Signing up is dealt with by a simple form:
Reading PDF’s of the Magazine
As well as being able to subscribe to the magazine people might want to be able to read back-issues of the magazine. They can do this by tapping the “Read Other Issues” which brings them to the below page:
All 30 editions of the RT Magazine are available here. To read one or find out more information about one the user just has to tap the relevant magazine cover. Once they have done so they are shown a page like the one below, which displays information on the featured celebrity, main stories and provides a button which downloads the PDF of the magazine in the default browser. I would have liked to embed the PDF within the application but unfortunately this isn’t supported in the Windows RT API’s unless you purchase Foxit Embedded Reader.
One of my favorite features of Windows 8 is snapped view. Microsoft’s implementation of Multi-tasking in the Modern Experience Environment. Snapped view allows you to view two apps at once, pinning one to either the left or the right in a 320 pixel wide box and allowing the other to fill up the rest of the space as if it was in full-screen mode. Every page within the Regtransfers application supports snap-view, and every snap view has full feature parity with the full screen mode rather than just showing a logo – as some applications do.
Because I have an awful lot of content on the Main Page it was a bit of a challenge to fit it all onto a small 320 pixel wide window, but I achieved this with some inspiration from the pivot page used in many Windows Phone applications. Using a <FlipView> XAML element I have made it so that you can swipe between 5 different views. The Magazine View, Recent Plates View, Recent Search View, YouTube View and Twitter View. The Regtransfers Logo and Search bar are always present.
On the other pages elements are simply resized and reordered to make more sense on a smaller screen. Some examples are shown below.
Windows Phone 8 App
Making the snap views for Windows 8 was a huge help in designing the pages for the Windows Phone 8 application, which sports all the features of the desktop app including search, twitter, youtube and magazine subscription and e-reading. I’ve only just started this so there isn’t too much to show. But below is a picture of the main page of the app and the search page with filters.
I will of course keep this blog updated with my progress.
One of the many things I love about Modern Jago is its huge TV, which has an XBOX connected, with Kinect
My apologies for a total lack of posts since Christmas. I’ve been busy with all sorts, but mainly revision for my exams. Normal service will now be resumed 🙂
Near the end of November I read about ‘Appy Christmas — an event set up by Microsoft to encourage the development of Windows 8 applications over the festive period — on the Microsoft UK Students Blog.
I immediately thought it could be good fun and posted about it on the University of Hull Microsoft User Group hoping that some of my fellow Hullians would join me on the trip down to Modern Jago, Shoreditch , London. It turns out that in the end 25% of the attendees were from The University of Hull, a fantastic turn out.
The two day event started for me and the two Hullians I was travelling with, Rob and James, went to catch our train at half 10 on Monday from the Hull Paragon Interchange station, just 2 and a half hours later we were at Kings Cross and boarding our Circle Line tube train to Liverpool Street — 10 minutes after alighting at Liverpool Street we’d finished the final walking part of the journey and were at Modern Jago.
This was the second time I’ve been to Jago and I really like it there, its a blend of Modern and Old that works really well, much like Windows 8 I guess Microsoft would say ;).
Over the course of the Weekend I ported my Solar System Simulation coursework for 2D Graphics to WinJS, improved the UI and submitted it to the store — quick work! You can read all about that application here. Rob developed a C# and XAML Modern UI app port of his Cheap Ass Gamer Windows Phone 7 application, which is absolutely beautifully designed and you should definitely check out by clicking here!
Other than application development a lot of fun was had out on the town with Phil Cross, Ben Nunney and my fellow Microsoft fans and a heck of a lot of pizza was consumed. Overall we produced over 30 apps in two days, good going! No wonder the Windows Store is the fastest growing app store at the moment. Porting applications is almost effortless, bar changing the UI for the big screen.
6 days after the hand in date my friends Rob, James and I went to ‘Appy Christmas, an event set up by Microsoft to encourage the development of Windows 8 app in the holiday period. Whilst there I ported my application from a browser based webpage to a fully featured WinJS Windows 8 application. When I told my lecturer, Dr. David Parker about it he seemed interested in the ease of the porting experience, so I shall outline it here.
I added all my “Business Code” and classes by just adding the .js files to the solution
I edited the HTML page to make it fit better, as scrolling pages don’t look great in apps — all of the Windows 8 style came for free with no work
And that was it! At this point the application worked, however it wasn’t very touch friendly and the Koch Snowflake fractal algorithm would lag on some lower powered arm devices, including the Microsoft Surface RT, so I made the following enhancements
Lowered the amount of iterations my fractal function went through, lowering the computational power required
Added an “App Bar” to hold buttons which controlled all of the functions — the coursework spec asked that all functions were called using keyboard input, so this made it much more usable on a touch screen
Added support for the share charm. When you press it a bitmap image is created from the canvas and sent to whatever application you chose.
If you want to play with the application now, you can do so by downloading it from the Windows store here.
Below you can see some screenshots of the application in action.
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.