Welcome to Microsoft By Charlotte Wang - An Intern's Experience


    So? My job as the Associate Business Analyst isn’t as boring as the title sound. The work at Microsoft Canada is absolutely independent and YOU, you are responsible for what you do. When there are issues, you find a solution. But when you making an impact, the credit is all YOURS. This is the culture that we embrace, and as a university student, it is one of the most remarkable experiences that will stay on my resume – my Microsoft Internship experience.

    Monday January 24, 2010

    08:50     Arrive @ Mississauga office, after one full hour of driving. IT’S FREEZING and I hate the snow > : [

    09:00     Breakfast time! Eggo sandwich down at café? Or should I just go for an apple and banana? Oh no wait I need to start refreshing the reports first. Remote Desktop into the Server…

    09:15     Okay…Reports are refreshing. Perfect. Now munching my breakfast and looking at my excels. God, please allow me to have one peaceful day. I love my computer and excel.

    10:30     Catching up with my neighbour co-ops about the weekend…seems like we all had a great time and are well rested for another week of productive work ; ]

    11:00     Talking to controller...New assignment for this week, seems like down times aren’t really down! Finance is always busy. ALWAYS.

    11:59     Instant Message received from co-op: Shall we grab lunch? Soonish? Sure…soonish. Just let me finish up this formula and it should work…

    12:10     Let’s head down! Hmm what’s today’s special down at café? Or should I just get the Buffalo Chicken Wrap that our office is famous for? Tough Choices…

    12:50     Done and done. Heading back up to my cubicle and begin my afternoon duties. Let’s just continue with my report construction…

    2:25        Meeting in 5 minutes! Quickly grabbing all my materials and I am ready to present my reports!

    3:15        Meeting’s over, managers happy with the results, just need to fix up some formatting to match with the corporate worldwide standards…washroom and drinks break…ha! The other co-op thought that colleague of hers is cute :P really? Maybe!

    4:10        50 minutes till the end of the day! So far all my reports have been good, my computer is treating me well…so let’s just bear with me for the remaining few minutes and I am ready to head home!!

    5:10        Wohoo! Another day killed! Seems like the day was productive, my excel queries were successful, and I look forward to tomorrow’s synch meeting with my managers! Alright this is the part that I do not look forward…1.5 hour traffic jam. Why can’t we just build more highways?! Oh well! At least I get to go home and relax!

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    Women In Technology: “Geekette” Eileen Brown: From Merchant Sea Woman to Social Media Guru by Genevieve L’Esperance MSP


    Eileen is a real hero for women in technology. Her story, like so many others, begins anywhere but in a classroom in computer science. She’s one of many high profile ladies who got their introduction to technology in the most unexpected way.

    In fact Eileen is even more unusual in that she chose to work as a merchant seaman in the navy! This is not exactly your typical female career choice and considering it was over 20 years or more ago makes it even more compelling a story. While working on some of the biggest frigates in the world involving movement of supplies Eileen got a sample of how inefficient the whole process was and early attempts at “modernizing” this were met with dismal failure. Long story short,  Eileen got curious and started coding and building out a new supply chain type program that won her rave reviews. And that was the beginning of her love affair with technology.

    Eileen’s last post at Microsoft was as the Exchange Evangelist in the UK with over 150 people under her command.  Her technical blogs were followed shockingly by thousands of very technical guys who saw a real guru in Eileen and respect her vast knowledge on many topics in IT. In fact she has taken that knowledge of unified communications and with it an enormous knowledge of social media interaction, her networking skills and became the face of social media business strategy, community and crisis management at Amaastra.

    What’s really important is that Eileen has spent the better part of 2 decades trying to engage women the world over to understand how important their participation in this industry is and she has served as speaker and session coordinator at Microsoft’s Tech Ed conferences for several years as the lead for Women In Technology events.  She was one of the biggest promoters of the worldwide phenomena Geek Girl Dinners, which I have attended in my own city.  She also has been very successful with another one of her ventures CWT, Connecting Women In Technology, where she almost singlehandedly  gathered women executives from the most competitive rivals and is now up to 5 conference events where each has contributed significantly on multiple topics and by taking turns hosting these events.

    Eileen is an “empowering” role model and one of my mentors. She is about making others stand out and realize their potential. In engaging others and making their incredible stories come to life she is in fact herself, a hero.


    I saw this on Eileen’s blog the other day and I know where my vote would be but if you happen to know anyone in the UK pass it on!

    Lynn, like Eileen Brown, has been engaging women it tech for over 20 years. She has developed and delivered events at Tech Ed like Women Build, been a huge driving force as part of Microsoft’s Digigirlz program and was also very involved in Microsoft’s WIT (Women in Technology) program.  And  she revels in being called a Geekette.

    Catch Eileen’s fascinating blogs on social media at: http://eileenbrown.wordpress.com/


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    Introducing XNA: A tri-platform game development framework – Part 1 By Alexander Yakobovich - MSP


    If you do a quick search for XNA tutorials, you’ll notice that the majority of articles introduce XNA as either a platform-specific (PC, Xbox or Windows Phone 7) tool or a completely generic (platform independent) game development framework. Introduction of the framework on all three platforms simultaneously is rare perhaps due to the – supposed – complexity that it will add to a “beginner level” tutorial.


    In reality, getting started with XNA on all three platforms at the same time is fairly simple.


    This is the first part of a series of articles that introduces XNA as a true tri-platform framework. Using the same codebase we will create and deploy a simple 3D XNA game to all three platforms simultaneously. To keep the introduction as elementary as possible, I’ll walk you through the differences in syntax and solution organization, omitting advanced fundamental differences between the three platforms such as performance considerations.


    If you haven’t already done so, head over to create.msdn.com and grab XNA Game Studio 4.0. Visual Studio 2010 Express is included with the full XNA package. Although, the distribution is branded as “Windows Phone Developer Tools”, it includes everything needed to develop for PC, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7 devices. If you’re a student, be sure to grab Visual Studio 2010 Professional from DreamSpark (www.dreamspark.com). Professional edition of Visual Studio is not strictly required for XNA development. It is, however, highly recommended given that it allows you to install useful third-party tools and add-ons.


    Getting started:


    Let’s begin by creating an XNA project. In Visual Studio, go to File -> New -> Project…



    Select Windows Game under Visual C# -> XNA Game Studio 4.0. Alternatively you could select either Xbox 360 Game or Windows Phone Game, but for this tutorial I’ll use a Windows Game as the base project. To stay consistent with this tutorial name your project XNAIntro.



    In the Solution Explorer (View -> Solution Explorer if you don’t see it), you’ll notice the solution, having the same name as the base project, is at the very top of the hierarchy. This is standard Visual Studio solution organization, and much like any other .NET project, XNA application structure adheres to it. Inside the solution, we already have two projects, XNAIntro and XNAIntroContent. XNAIntro is the main game project where your game code goes. Its name is bolded to indicate that it is the start-up project; the project that will launch when you start a debugging session. XNAIntroContent is the content project; its type is also known as the Content Pipeline. All your game assets (models, textures, sounds, etc) go into this project. We’ll look at the Content Pipeline in a little more detail later.


    At this point, your project is ready to be launched. You can go ahead and start debugging (F5). You should be greeted with a blue (better yet, Cornflower Blue) window.



    You can think of this screen as the “Hello, World!” of XNA. It indicates that XNA is properly running and you’re all set to begin development.


    Expanding to multiple platforms

    Before we write a single line of code, we can already create projects for other platforms. Let’s create an Xbox version of our project and deploy it to an Xbox. Right-click on XNAIntro project and select “Create Copy of Project for Xbox 360”. 



    The new Xbox version of the project will reference the same files found in the Windows version.



    Files that are not needed on other platforms, can be excluded (Right-click a file -> Exclude From Project) from the perspective projects. For example, if you have a class that is exclusive to mouse input, it can only be used in the Windows version of the application, so it can be excluded from the Xbox project. However, exclusion of assets and code files that are used elsewhere in the project will result in build errors. For such cases, we’ll use selective inclusion/exclusion within code. More on this in part 2.


    Since the new project is in the same solution as the base project, it can reference the same Content Project that our Windows project references right now.


    In fact, any project can reference any other project within the same solution. This is both convenient and important for reusable components and complex solutions such as game engines. A project that is referenced by another project is a dependency and will be built by Visual Studio before the project that references it. Two projects cannot reference each other, as this would create a circular dependency. Generally speaking, a project of one platform should not reference a project of another platform. There are a few exceptions to this rule, particularly when dealing with the Content Pipeline.


    In our case, the new Xbox project automatically referenced the Content project that was created along with our Windows project.


    Go ahead and create the Windows Phone project the same way you created the Xbox project (Right-click on either XNAIntro or Xbox 360 Copy of XNAIntro and select “Create Copy of Project for Windows Phone”).




    Under Solution Platforms (Right-click on any toolbar -> Standard if you don’t see it), the three platforms that we are targeting can be selected individually. By default, Mixed Platforms option is selected and will target all platforms in our solution.



    Go ahead and build the solution (F6). You’ll right away notice that we have a number of warnings.



    No need to panic! The problem is really simple and the solution is even simpler. Visual Studio is simply letting you know that the assemblies in question are not available on the platform you’re targeting. In our case Avatars, XACT, and a number of other XNA features are not available on the Windows Phone. Therefore, we will simply remove them. Note that the project that is the source of the warning (or error) is shown in the Project column.


    Expand the References folder in the Windows Phone project and select all of the references to be removed. Visual Studio already marked them for you with a yellow exclamation mark. Simply right-click on any of the selected and select Remove.





    Rebuild the project and the warnings will disappear. We can now deploy our application to the three platforms. Only the start-up project will be launched for a debugging session. You can change the start-up project by right-clicking on any project and selecting Set as StartUp Project. As with other applications, the project must have a static main method in one of its classes in order to start. For the Windows phone project, the class that derives XNA’s Game class will automatically become the start point. More on this in part 2.


    We can now go ahead and start debugging. With Mixed Platforms selected, Visual Studio will automatically deploy to all three platforms. On the PC the process of “deploying” is nothing more than outputting the game executable, its dependencies and content to the bin folder in the project directory. For Windows Phone, Visual Studio will package all of the aforementioned things into a XAP package. After packaging it will deploy the XAP to a Windows Phone device or emulator. In our case, Visual Studio will automatically launch the Windows Phone 7 Emulator. Note that the emulator requires a DirectX 10 or higher video card.


    Since there is no Xbox emulator, the project must be deployed to an actual Xbox 360, which at this point will result in the following error.



    You will need to setup XNA Game Studio Connect in order to deploy to an Xbox 360. Up-to-date instructions for doing this are available here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb203929.aspx. Note that the Xbox must be on the same subnet as the PC deploying to it, which is often the case if both the PC and the Xbox are connected to the same router. Internet connection is also required in order to deploy.


    If you do not have an Xbox, you can still build the Xbox project but need to skip the deployment process. To do this, select Configuration Manager… under Solution Platforms.



    Under Deploy uncheck the box for the Xbox 360 copy of the project.


    You project will still build and all corresponding warnings and errors will be exposed, but Visual Studio won’t attempt to deploy to the Xbox. This means that you won’t be able to debug the project.


    Since we already launched the application on the PC, let’s launch it on the phone emulator this time. Select the Windows Phone project as the start-up project and start debugging. You’ll be greeted with the same Cornflower Blue screen that you already saw with the Windows version.



    If you did setup XNA Game Studio Connect on the Xbox, be sure it is running. Select the Xbox project as the start-up project and start debugging. While the size of this project is small, a large project might take a while to deploy for the first time. Subsequent (incremental) builds will be significantly faster, since only the changes will be deployed.


    And that’s all there is to it! In just a few easy steps you created an XNA game and deployed it to three platforms. It’s not much of a game, in fact it’s nothing more than a solid color screen but it is a start. In part 2, get ready for a bit of code.



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    Microsoft Research: Microsoft Tags by Shahrad Rezaei MSP


     Having fun with Microsoft Tags

    One thing you should know about me is that I am a geek. This explains why I’m writing a blog post right after I discover some fun, nerdy thing. My cousin has recently bought a Windows Phone 7, and since I don’t have one, I’ve been fiddling around with it a bit. One app he downloaded was what he thought was a barcode reading app, but he claimed it didn’t work, so I had a look, and I discovered that it was actually a Microsoft Tag reader. A good while back, this technology was being developed at Microsoft Research (the guys who brought the World Wide Telescope and Songsmith. You can check out what they’re up to at research.microsoft.com), and back then, I had no way of really testing it out, so I didn’t do much with it. But now that he had the app, I gave it a go, and I was surprised to find out that it actually works! You can download the app on the Zune Marketplace and try this out for yourself as well. It is also available for the iPhone, the Android and other mobile phones. The tags allow companies to deliver digital information quickly and easily to consumers, by having them take a picture of the tag and receive digital content on their mobile devices, such as text messages, URL links, contact information, or phone numbers. And the best part is: you can make your own tags, free of charge!

    This one sends a Hello World text message

    This one redirects to this blog

    This one gives you my contact information

    This one dials the Microsoft Canada HQ phone number (yes, that’s the best I could think of…)


    This might take a few tries to get it to work well (I didn’t follow the guidelines because I wanted to make it fit in this blog…) but this is pretty cool. While this is mostly used in marketing, the average Joe can use it and make their own tags as well! And the process is very simple too. All you have to do is sign in on tag.microsoft.com with your Windows Live ID, then click on the “Tag Manager” link on the top of the page. Once you do that, you’ll be presented with a table containing a list of your tags (yours should be empty):

    It’s pretty straightforward, so I won’t go into much detail. You can create a new tag by clicking the “Create a Tag” button on the top right corner, and you’ll see a form. Fill it up, save it and you’re done. Now comes the fun part: generating it!

    To generate the tag, you’ll need to click on the little tag icon in the “Render” column. Then, you’ll have to select which kind of tag you want, and stick it everywhere! Be sure to follow the Implementation Guidelines though, that’s what will assure that people can actually read your tag (yes, I didn’t but shhh… don’t tell anyone J). You can also make your own customized tag, with a picture in the back, or you can even cover up the dots with your picture, so you can make it pretty nifty too. Once you save your tag (be sure to select the format you want it to be saved in at the top of the popup), you can use it however you want. (Just don’t spam people…)

    But there is more! According to the Microsoft Research website, the “father technology” of the Microsoft Tag, the High Capacity Color Barcodes (or HCCB for short) could be able to store a whole page from a novel (or 1, 750 characters long) on a tag no bigger than a penny!

    This means that these new barcodes can be used in much more contexts than what we currently have on our pasta sauce cans. While they are not meant as replacements for our typical black and white barcodes, they will be able to provide additional information to the consumer. We have seen some examples with the Tags, but they could be used for more advanced things such as passports or driver licences (the tags can even be encrypted by RSA-1024). But, while we wait for these tags to become mainstream, you can print a big one, frame it, put it in your room, and say it’s abstract art that only cool people can understand. J

    If you want to read more about the HCCBs, I suggest you visit the page dedicated to it on the Microsoft Research website.

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    Win a Microsoft Kinect Sensor - Contest opened from now until February 2011


    Stay Connected. Stay Informed.

    Subscribe to the Canadian Student Newsletter »

    Dear Students!

    Are you passionate about technology and where it can take you? Now you can stay up-to-date on the latest student news, reviews, and technology updates from Microsoft with the Canadian Student Newsletter.

    The Canadian Student Newsletter is a bi-monthly newsletter written for students by students, so you can:

    • Keep up with the latest technology from Microsoft.
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    Find out what's happening in the student community around you. Join today and you could win a Microsoft Kinect Sensor for subscribing!*

    Thank you,

    The Go DevMENTAL Team

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    * No purchase necessary. Contest open to residents of Canada. There is one (1) prize available to be won consisting of Microsoft Kinect Sensor (estimated retail value of $149.99 each). Contest closes Feb 28, 2011. Skill testing question required. For full contest rules click here.

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