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    Windows 8 + Azure Events makes for better apps!

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    Windows 8 Start ScreenIn addition to the Windows 8 events coming up, we’ve got a couple of great Azure workshops coming up as well! Adding Azure to your Windows 8 app can take it to the next level.

    Jump to Event listing

    Windows 8 provides a great opportunity for developers, and last week I talked about the app excellence labs which give you the chance to be the first in line in Canada to get your app into the store.

    This week I want you to think about the possibilities offered by using Azure with your Windows 8 apps. Azure isn’t just for Windows 8, you can use it for Windows Phone, iOS, Android, and of course PC apps as well. Azure can bring your app to the next level.

    Let’s say you are building a game. Even if you don’t think of the game as a multiplayer game, you may still want to allow players to connect by adding a social aspect. I’ll give you a concrete example, where a social aspect to a game has increased is addictiveness.

    Wordament is a game on Windows 8 and Windows Phone. It’s a very simple game, you get a grid of letters and you make as many words as you can in 2 minutes. Different letters earn you different scores (just like Scrabble). If you have a competitive nature, you would naturally try to improve your high score. But, a social twist to the game takes makes it far more addictive. All the players around the world try to solve the same puzzle at the same time. At the end of the round, you find out how your score compares to everyone else. You can’t help but try to move up the rankings by playing just one more round. Want to make it personal? You get a list of players with scores close to your and you can tap their names to make them frenemies, now every time you and a frenemy are playing you’ll know who beat who because your scores are listed at the top of the screen. I admit, I got to bed later than planned last night because I just had to beat PicassoCat73 before I quit for the night.

    How did they do it? The magic of the cloud! Store the player names and scores in the cloud and then send out the results. Complicated? No. Effective? Yes!

    This is just one of many ways Azure can improve a PC or mobile app. There is a social gaming SDK for Azure in GitHub if you want to explore it further or you can take advantage of an upcoming workshop to learn more about Azure or Windows 8!

    Upcoming Events

    Toronto

    Vancouver

    Montreal

    Ottawa

    if you can’t attend one of the Windows 8 events, you can still learn about how to build Windows 8 apps online at the Windows developer center and bring your app to the labs.

    P.S. if you decide to download Wordament, my gamer tag is hockeygeekgirl looking forward to having you as my frenemy, but be warned I’ve been practicing!

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    Tips and Tricks from Students: Silverlight Phone app “TonalFlash”

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    practiceAnswerScreenShot

    Patrick Ayoup, a student from Concordia university built a musical key signatures application for Windows Phone and share what he learned

    Check out more tips from fellow students here

    Could you briefly describe your application/game?

    The app that I wrote is a very simple reference/study app for music students. This app serves two purposes, firstly as a reference of the various musical key signatures, and secondly as a study application where the user can test themselves as they would with physical flash cards.

    Did you use XNA, Silverlight or both?

    This was my first time writing an app for windows phone, so I wanted to keep it simple. My app uses Silverlight. Since my app isn't a game, and doesn't really have any animation, I didn't look into XNA, although it would be cool to investigate for my next app now that I have seen how easy it is to develop for this platform.

    What was your banging your head against a wall moment?

    I have developed for iPhone in the past and I found this process to be much more enjoyable. Things just seemed to go much easier with the Windows Phone platform than with the iOS environment. The one stumbling block that I had was with creating a list view from an XML file. This was the one thing that wasn't too obvious at first.

    Did you ever solve that issue?

    This issue was solved quite quickly after doing a couple of quick internet searches. There seems to be a good amount of resources online already. The ones that helped the most were from Jesse Liberty.

    If you had to build this same app again from scratch, what would you do differently?

    I wouldn't build this app again from scratch because it is already quite simple, but what I would do is build on it and perhaps take advantage of different touch gestures and animations to help give my app a more polished feel (although by default, I find WP7 makes it easy for your apps to look nice).

    Any nice surprises?

    The nicest surprise for me was how easy LINQ makes data retrieval from a data source. To avoid hardcoding many similar views, I simply made a skeleton view and populated it with data from an XML file. Normally I would find this to be a tedious process, but LINQ made life easy.

    Did you leverage the mobile platform?

    For this app, I didn't do much that is fancy (from a mobile perspective), but I do intend to look into gestures and other features for my next version.

    Did you leverage the touch screen?

    Not for this version. Thinking of it for an update.

    What is one thing you think you did really well in this application?

    The thing that I think I did well was how I organized my code in the way that I had to write a little code as possible to get the job done. The WP7 platform really helped take care of any other distractions and enabled me to focus on just writing clean code.

    Are you publishing your application/game?

    My app is already available in the Marketplace: TonalFlash

    Where can I learn more about your app/game?

    Right now the only information is in the Marketplace.

    Who developed this application?

    I am a computer science student who has just completed my first year at Concordia University. I am also a graduate of McGill University where I completed a Bachelor of Music degree in Double Bass Performance. It was the idea of combining both of these fields which inspired me to develop this app.

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    How do you get your Windows 8 app to the store?

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    Windows 8 Start ScreenIf you want a token for the Windows 8 store, you need to attend an app excellence lab.

    There is no question that the Windows 8 store is a significant opportunity, and getting in early will improve the chance of your app getting noticed. In Canada, your first chance to get a token to put your app in the store is by completing an app excellence lab. Bring your completed or nearly completed Windows 8 app to the lab and spend up to 4 hours with a trained Microsoft services engineer. They will help you get your app up to snuff, answer questions you may have, and give you tips on how you can improve your app.

    In this post I’ll explain

    • What is an app excellence lab?
    • How do I register for a lab?
    • Where can I learn more about building Windows 8 apps?
    • When are the app excellence labs?
    • What if I don’t live in a city with an app excellence lab?
    • Does my app have to be 100% complete to attend a lab?

    What is an app excellence lab?

    The lab is an up to 4-hour engagement with a trained Microsoft Services Engineer. This engineer will run your app through a series of tests based on a quality checklist to ensure your app is (or will be) in top-notch shape when you submit. You will also get a chance discuss ways to make your app even better and you will get answers to any questions you might have.

    When you schedule your slot, you receive a detailed survey with questions about your app, useful advice, links to guidelines, etc.  The survey is not the only criteria we use at the labs, but if you follow the preparation given in the survey, you will likely have a high-level, great app.

    If your app meets the criteria, you will  receive a token to register your developer account. Once verified, you will be able to submit your app to the Windows store. If your app does not meet the criteria, nothing is lost. You will still end up with a much better app and you will be able to submit it when registration opens for all developers.

    How do I register for a lab?

    Attend a Windows 8 Developer Camp, Windows 8 Design Clinic or Windows 8 Hackathon (upcoming cities and dates at the bottom of this blog post)

    AND/OR

    Review the app-building content from the Windows Developer Centre to learn the fundamentals of building a great Metro-style Windows 8 App.

    Create a Windows 8 Metro-style app (or game) TODAY.  Get it ready as if you were submitting it to the store for certification.

    Read through all of the great UX Guidelines online in the design section of the Windows Developer Centre.

    Contact win8cdn@microsoft.com and include the following information:

    • Your Name
    • Your Address information
    • A brief application description (no binary, optional screenshot, but only send if the screenshot is not confidential)
    • Wait for Thomas Lewis to respond letting you know where and when the closest lab will be, at which point we’ll schedule a time slot that is mutually beneficial.

    Where can I learn more about building Windows 8 apps?

    Vancouver

    Montreal

    Ottawa

    if you can’t attend one of the Windows 8 events, you can still learn about how to build Windows 8 apps online at the Windows developer center and bring your app to the labs.

    When are the app excellence labs?

    Toronto May 22-25; May 28- June 1

    Montreal June 4 – 8

    Vancouver June 11-15; June 18-22

    What if I don’t live in a city where there’s an app excellence lab?

    Excellent question, well if you live nearby, your best bet is to drive to the nearest city where there is a lab, Ottawa to Montreal isn’t that far. But, if you live in Halifax or Edmonton that could be a challenge, let alone Yellowknife or St John’s. So, just submit your app information to win8cdn@microsoft.com as described above and register for a remote session using Skype or Lync during one of the lab weeks listed. Don't wait until the day before to request a time please, so we can address capacity issues.

    Does my app have to be 100% complete to attend a lab?

    Another good question, If your app is 100% complete then there is much higher chance that you will get a store token when you leave the lab. But there is still value in attending the labs with an app that is not completely finished. Up to 4 hours with a Microsoft engineer is sure going to help you figure out what little thing you need to add to finish up your application with the confidence that when you are finished it will be store ready. So, no your app doesn’t have to be 100% complete, but the closer to finished you have your app, the more you will get out of the app excellence lab.

    So what are you waiting for? Get coding Canada! I can’t wait to see what you build!

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    UBC making medicine affordable around the world with ASP.NET and Azure

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    In this blog we look at the 2nd place winners in the Software Design category at the 2012 Canadian Imagine Cup, team Nimbus from UBC and the Global Pharmacy Connection.

    The Problem:

    Infectious diseases kill 14 million each year. 90% of those are in the developing world and most are treatable. Underdeveloped countries paying high prices for drugs due to drug company monopolies

    The Solution:

    Make essential drugs available and affordable to those in need by connecting healthcare providers in developing countries with pharmaceutical suppliers around the world.

    Technologies Used:

    ASP.NET MVC, XML Web Services, Bing Web Services, SQL Azure, Windows Azure, Windows Phone

    What did they do?

    University of British Columbia’s Team Nimbus: Pavel Islam, Caleb Ho, Matthew Park, and Amin Ali imagine a world where essential medicine is available and affordable to everyone! To help create that world they have developed Global Pharmacy Connection to connect suppliers with buyers in developing countries. They built a web site and a back end using a variety of services running on Azure. The website is preloaded with the lists of drugs that may be required by a medical professional such as chloroquin which is used to treat malaria. TeamNimbus

     

    Pharmaceutical companies register on the Global Pharmacy connection website and the drugs they can provide are listed for potential buyers. A medical professional can either visit the website or use a Windows Phone application to request a particular drug from any of the companies who can ship it to their country. The result, less dependency on local drug manufacturers creating competition which will lower the cost of essential drugs to developing countries and save lives.

    image

    Building a solution that connects everyone takes a lot of work behind the scenes. The users may only see the web page or the phone application, but behind the scene Team Nimbus has put together a very well architected solution using ASP.NET and a variety of services that execute the necessary logic to make the application work. Azure is an essential part of their solution given the need to scale around the world.

    image

    With their second place win, team Nimbus wins 10 hours of mentorship from Polar Mobile,and  Xbox 360 Kinect Bundles for everyone on the team. as I look at the architecture of their solutions I can’t help but think it’s the rest of us who win when talented students like this tackle the world’s challenges and enter the workforce. Congratulations Team Nimbus on a job well done!

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    Join us June 21st for a virtual faculty summit–Save the date!

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    IMG_1492-013For anyone who teaches technology we have a session for you. Register for one or more sessions, pick what interests you!

    Too many technologies, too little time to keep up with it all? That’s why we are hosting a virtual faculty summit. A series of 45-60 minute sessions on a variety of topics designed for you, the instructor. Whether you re thinking about best practices for mobile development, or wondering how to give students from your school the best chance to succeed in the Imagine Cup. The best part is you just pick and register for the sessions that interest you!

    Who: Professors, instructors, associate professors, teaching assistants, teachers, anyone who has to stand in front of a class and explain to other how to use today’s technology.

    What: Web, mobile, gaming, cloud, Imagine Cup, Microsoft Research

    Where: Online, all you need is an internet connection

    When: Thursday June 21, 2012 between 11 and 5 PM Eastern Time.

    Why: Because we want to give you a chance to learn something new related to what you teach, and let you know about the free resources we have available to help you.

    The registration site will be live before the end of May with a complete list of sessions and abstracts.

    The first 100 Canadian faculty who register will receive a faculty kit full of resources to help you with your courses.

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