Tag Archive | Windows Phone

Micro-talks Review

The Crowd

As promised I ran the Micro-talks event at the University of Hull Department of Computer Science Christmas Bash (try saying that 10 times quickly) last week. We had a surprisingly high turn out and a lot of familiar faces got involved! In fact, the room had nearly twice as many people in by the time it filled out as are in the photo above — I counted around 45 in total.

I started us off by managing to throw together a few slides, and talk for a few minutes, about entering the world of open source for the first time. If you found yourself inspired by that you should check out my blog post on the same subject here.

The assortment of prizes I bought along for speakers and listeners alike!

The assortment of prizes I bought along for speakers and listeners alike!

Once I’d finished my bit and introduced the prizes, generously provided by Microsoft, fellow MSP Merrick Sapsford, took the floor to talk about why developing for charities can be a worthwhile endeavour. Merrick develops applications to support a charity which maintains and flies the last XH558 Vulcan Bomber.

Merrick Talking about his Vulcan Bomber App for the iPhone

Merrick Talking about his Vulcan Bomber App for the iPhone

Through this work he has managed to make connections with other aviation companies that are giving him paid work, has managed to get into a list of some of the top grossing apps on the iPhone Store and has even managed to get a few free iPhones in the process. You can check out his app here.

Rob Miles and his "Connected Fun"

Rob Miles and his “Connected Fun”

Lecturer Rob Miles had a presentation of his own, which included some cool lights which he could change the colour of using the Bluetooth connection from his Windows Phone. You can check out Robs round-up — and considerably better quality photos — on his blog.

Dr. David Grey on "FoodCloud"

Dr. David Grey on “FoodCloud”

Dr. David Grey — who you may remember from such introductory lectures as… — had the unenviable task of following Rob. Dr. Grey spoke about FoodCloud — a multi-platform augmented reality application the university is developing as part of its research into teaching people about how their food is grown and produced. The app seemed like a really cool idea and the implementation was obviously really smooth! It’s a shame we don’t hear more about research within the department (until recently I was under the impression the department did very little)

Simon Grey inviting people to Global Game Jam '14

Simon Grey inviting people to Global Game Jam ’14

To finish things up Simon Grey, without the use of even the 4 slides he was allowed, invited everyone to sign up for Global Game Jam 2014. GGJ is a games development competition over 48 hours, like a double length Three Thing Game, which takes place all across the world, starting at 5pm in each time zone. This year Hull will be hosting the biggest individual event in the UK, in a collaboration between The University of Hull, Hull College and the Grimsby Institute. Simons put a lot of work in so if you’re interested you should sign up here.

Overall the event was a success, a lot of people heard and learnt about a lot of cool stuff. Hopefully people were inspired to do something new, and if not at least there was pizza afterwards… 😉 I hope anyone who nabbed a prize enjoyed what they got. The Microsoft-branded lip balm seemed to be a crowd pleaser at any rate. Hopefully we will take what we learnt from this event and try something similar again next semester!

Danny

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Campus Party : Europe in London

Last week I was fortunate enough to be with some of my fellow Microsoft Student Partners, some Windows Ambassadors, some Microsoft Interns and some Microsoft Employees at Campus Party Europe, an event which was described by the BBC as ‘Glastonbury for geeks’.

I would say this was fairly accurate, except there was less mud! Like Glastonbury there were several stages, a whole host of interesting people to meet, and tents!

Working on the Microsoft Stand

Tuesday through to Friday I worked for 6 hours a day on the Microsoft Stand. It was really good fun! Our job was to talk to people about Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8, Microsoft Surface and the Xbox One and endeavour to answer any questions they had about either the software or hardware. As well as that we tried to get as many people as possible to take our surveys, in return each participant got a surprisingly stylish pair of Windows 8 Branded Sunglasses and a glow stick!

I was also fortunate enough to have Academic Audience Lead Phil Cross, point a few developers who had questions about Visual Studio and developing for Windows platforms my way.

The TeamworkPM App for Windows 8 I developed on the 2 big displays and the Surface Pro I wrote it on

The TeamworkPM App for Windows 8 I developed on the 2 big displays and the Surface Pro I wrote it on

Throughout Wednesday and Thursday I spent much of my shifts writing a Windows 8 app for the project management website TeamworkPM. It was especially interesting to do this because my display was being projected on two 42inch monitors above my head, this meant everyone could see what I was doing and I attracted quite a few developers to come and talk about developing for the platform.

In the evenings when the stand got a bit quiet we would try to entice people to come and see our wares in a variety of ways, one of which was through the medium of dance :P. My highlight was the Macarana, or the Microsoft Macarena as I called it.  Below you can see us all dancing and waving our glowsticks to the ever-entertaining Harlem Shake.

Talks

The main thing that first attracted me to the offer of working for Microsoft at Campus Party Europe was the fact that we could spend our down time watching some of the many speakers that came to talk about their respective fields.

I was fortunate enough to catch 2 or 3 lectures a day, from people as well respected and diverse as Jon “Maddog” Hall — chairman of Linux International — and Ian Livingstone — President of Eidos and founder of Games Workshop.

The O2 arena hosted 8 stages, of all of which had talks from 10am – 10pm each night, so there was certainly a lot to take in — too much to write about here.

My favourite talks were actually that about free and open source software (sorry, Microsoft), and the relatively new phenomenon of open data.

Swag

At the end of the week my fellow MSP’s and I were super happy with being able to have witnessed one of the coolest, and largest tech conferences in the world, but even on top of that Microsoft were generous enough to allow us to keep the devices we had been using throughout the week to showcase both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 to customers, this meant a Nokia Lumia 920 and a Microsoft Surface RT each!

I was over the moon with the Surface RT because I had been looking to get an RT device for a while to test the performance of a few of my apps on the lower powered ARM CPU’s — but I was especially happy with the Nokia Lumia 920. My phone contract ends in a few days, and because now I have an awesome new phone I’m gonna go on a SIM only plan and save myself some money 🙂

Thanks

I would like to say a massive thank-you to everyone involved at the O2, the people behind Campus Party, and of course Microsoft for making everything work like clock work and giving me a fantastic opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in our industry, a lot of laughs, some great knowledge and some cool electronics! I hope to see you all again soon!

Danny.

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...

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

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.