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    What’s In the Cloud: Lead from Fersh

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    Yesterday, I posted my first of several interviews with Canadian developers who are working with Windows Azure on the Canadian Developer Connection. I thought I would share the interview with you as well since it was with a digital media start-up company run by students out of the Ryerson Digital Media Zone in Toronto, Ontario. Check out their story, be inspired, and think how you can take your application or your app idea and go global without having to learn new platforms and more importantly, without requiring money to invest up front.

    If you’re a student start-up just getting started or you just have an idea that you’d like to develop further, I’d love to hear from you and see how I can help! I had the pleasure of having several discussions with the members of Fersh (the below was just one of them) about technologies, business models, etc. Feel free to send me an email or find me on Twitter at any time. Let’s connect and see what’s possible.

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    Lead is a worldwide leaderboard platform which developers can integrate into their games to engage its users. Lead provides
    a consistent reliable service and a growing ecosystem of products for developers regardless of the platform on which they develop. Lead is developed by Fersh, a student digital multimedia start-up operating out of the Ryerson Digital Media Zone in Toronto, Ontario. Fersh’s portfolio includes a number of award-winning mobile games, applications and developer resources. Fersh offers a range of products and services including consulting and customized software solutions across several platforms.

    I had a chance to sit down with one of Lead’s developers and Ryerson’s Microsoft Student Partner (MSP), Kowsheek Mahmood (@aredkid) to find out how he and his team built Lead using Windows Azure.

    Jonathan: Kowsheek, when you and the team were designing Lead, what was the rationale behind your decision to develop for the Cloud, and more specifically, to use Windows Azure?

    Kowsheek: Being a start-up company with constrained funding, it was not feasible for us to have multiple dedicated servers for Lead. Furthermore, since we wanted Lead to provide a consistent experience across geographical locations, a distributed solution was the right fit.
    At Fersh we use Microsoft technologies to develop our applications which range from games to mobile and web applications. We chose Windows Azure because we could use our existing knowledge of the technologies involved and leverage them well. Also, Windows Azure provided for high availability and a flexible utility-style service, that fulfilled our requirements and was affordable.

    Jonathan: What Windows Azure services are you using? How are you using them?

    Kowsheek: We are using Windows Azure Compute Web Role instances to host the frontend site, as well as our simple but really powerful API with developers will integrate in their games. SQL Azure hosts our databases in which we store the leaderboard data for each game using the API. We are also using Blob Storage and the Content Delivery Network (CDN) for static content, distributed to different geographic regions.

    Jonathan: During development, did you run into anything that was not obvious and required you to do some research? What were your findings? Hopefully, other developers will be able to use your findings to solve similar issues.

    Kowsheek: While working with the ASP.NET Membership service, initially it wasn't clear how the database on SQL Azure would have to be built. A quick Bing search showed that there is a tool similar to the regular tool called "aspnet_regsqlazure" that builds the database. You can find out more in this support article. Once we downloaded the proper files and ran them against the database, all was well.

    Jonathan: Lastly, what were some of the lessons you and your team learned as part of ramping up to use Windows Azure or actually developing for Windows Azure?

    Kowsheek: Initially, dedicated servers seemed feasible but after taking into consideration things like scalability and reliability, the hosting solutions seemed to fall short, so it always serves well to consider all the requirements and available options from the get-go.

    That’s it for today’s interview with Kowsheek Mahmood of Fersh about their application Lead. Lead is currently in Alpha release but has already been integrated into several games, such as the popular Windows Phone 7 game Sudoku3D (Facebook, Twitter). If you’re a game developer, Lead is definitely something to check out. Perhaps you could even participate in testing Lead.

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    Intern Voice: Hello World and Windows Phone 7 by Judy Lin

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    Hello everyone! My name’s Judy and I am—or was—a self-confessed BlackBerry addict.

    I'm a student at Wilfrid Laurier University and doing my co-op term at Microsoft on the Developer Platform Evangelism team and it’s been very rewarding and cool in a plethora of ways. One of our product managers just gave me a Samsung Focus with WP7 to own for the duration of my term (!). This was going to be my baby, but it also meant adios to my beloved BlackBerry Bold 9700. Au revoir to BBM. Sayonara to my dear, abused button keys.

    My BlackBerry has been at the gut of many frustrations and distractions in lectures, and using the WP7 so far has been like a welcome breath of fresh air. Why, do you ask?

    1) Interface: With live tiles, navigation has never been this beautiful and friendly to me!

    2) Phone design: Wide screen + dedicated camera start-up button x thin, light design = phone-photography win.

    3) Integration: Upload everything and anything, share and post, quick and easy to Facebook, email, skydrive, etc.

    Once upon a time, my ‘BB’ used to be a lifeline, and how quickly that attachment faded within days of the switch. In comparison, it feels crammed, the interface is uninspiring, and the size of the screen and the capabilities cannot even compare. Letting go has never been easier.

    Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh in judging my once-loved phone like an ex-boyfriend. Perhaps I'm just excited to be with something new and innovative that eases so smoothly into my life (hello, Facebook/contact-list integration?). Perhaps I’ve finally found a phone that ties together all my social interactions and connections without tying up my time. Only time can tell (re: future blog posts). J

    – Judy Lin

    Follow @godevmental and me @judy_lin, and tell me about your own transition stories or your love/hate relationship stories with your phones, because—let’s be real (T9Word, shattered screens…)—we’ve all been there.

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    Windows 8 sneak peek

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    In case you haven’t seen it yet, the first Windows 8 teaser has been released:

    Although more details are yet to be revealed, one thing is for sure: Metro is taking over!

    The fast, sleek and gorgeous Metro UI will now be found on Microsoft’s three major platforms including Windows, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox 360.

    Stay tuned for more! Smile

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    Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide People’s Choice Award – Go Vote!

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    The Microsoft Imagine Cup brings together students from all over the world and asks them to use their creativity and passion for technology to help solve the world’s toughest problems. This year, more than 350,000 students from 183 countries and regions registered to compete and, from July 8-13, the finalists (more than 400 students from 70 countries) will meet for the Worldwide Finals in New York City. Head over to the Imagine Cup site, check out the projects, and see how students, such as yourself, are using Microsoft technologies to truly change the world.

    Beginning today, people around the world will have the opportunity to get involved in the excitement through the Imagine Cup People’s Choice Award. Cast your vote on the People’s Choice Award site! Your friends, dorm mates, faculty, and family can vote as well, so spread the word.

    Here are just a few examples of how the teams are using Microsoft technologies at Imagine Cup: 

    • Windows Phone 7 is the most commonly used technology creating solutions ranging from finding the nearest recycling center to helping disaster victims broadcast their location.
    • Head in the clouds: Teams in the Software Design track are using Windows Azure in their projects – whether it’s aggregating crowd-sourced data, overcoming geographical boundaries or integrating satellite data.
    • Students take the lead on new technologies: There are a few projects that feature Microsoft Kinect technology ranging from physical rehabilitation to educational engagement.
    • No need to ask for directions: Some teams have integrated Bing Maps into their solutions – ranging from showing malaria outbreak locations to helping with traffic management to helping cities become more accessible.

    To top that, there were quite a few teams that brought all of the above together, using Windows Azure, Windows Phone 7, AND Bing Maps with solutions ranging from finding carpools to predicting disasters due to water flow. 

    The People’s Choice Award is just one component of several competitions and prizes at the Imagine Cup. From creating apps and videos to building Web sites and embedded solutions, students are truly helping to change the world with Microsoft technologies.

    Support your fellow students as they grow and start companies that thrive to have an impact in their communities and around the globe. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to register and compete in next year’s Imagine Cup. Stay tuned for more details on that.

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    Show us your Apps!

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    Are you a Canadian student? Did you develop a Windows Phone 7 app? We want to see it and feature it right here on the GoDevMENTAL blog!

    If you developed and published an app, let us tell your story here. You will help inspire others like you and gain fame among your peers. Not only that, but you will also get much needed exposure to let the world know about what you have to offer. What better way to get a boost in downloads and sales than to simply show off what you have done?

    If you developed an app but still didn’t publish it, we can help! If you need a Windows Phone 7 device to test your app on, or require assistance publishing and monetizing your idea, be sure to let us know.

    So send those marketplace links and/or your questions to godevmental@microsoft.com and prepare to be GoDevMENTAL’s next star!

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