Susan IbachTechnical Evangelist
How can students in Canada get their hands on Windows 8 RTM and Visual Studio 2012 so they can start building cool apps?
On August 1st the Windows team announced they had completed the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows 8. The blog announced that developers could download the final version on August 15th with an MSDN subscription. But what about students on Dreamspark? Well students at schools who have subscriptions to Dreamspark premium are in luck, as of August 25th they can start downloading Windows 8 as well!
If you haven’t explored the joys of Dreamspark yet, let me get you started so you can download Windows 8 and more!
If you have Dreamspark premium your school will have some sort of portal where you can login, for example, these are the portals for Concordia and Carleton University.
Tip: I found these by doing a Bing search for “Dreamspark”, “MSDN” and the university names. MSDN AA or MSDN Academic Alliance is the former name of Dreamspark Premium
Somewhere on your school portal you will find a link to login or to go to the Software Library. You will be prompted for a username and password. This will be your university email and password. Do not include the domain name in the email (e.g. for SusanIbach@Carleton.ca my username would be SusanIbach.
After you log in you’ll be redirected to the Dreamspark webstore. Where you will see a list of all the cool software you can download.
If you want to develop Windows 8 apps, you will want Microsoft Windows 8 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2012, but go ahead and explore some of the other choices, this is a fun place to explore and try all sorts of great tools like Expression Studio for doing User Interface design, Visio to do your flowcharts and UML diagrams, or SQL Server so you can become a database guru!
To get up and running with Windows 8, just select Windows 8 and you’ll be brought to a screen where you can choose whether you want the 32-bit or 64-bit versions, you can also choose whether you want the French or English edition.
Select Add to Cart for the version of the software you prefer, and then you go to the checkout
When you choose Check Out you are brought to the End User license Agreement. Do take time to read the restrictions, you will notice that under the No Commercial Use it does specifically say “You may however submit software programs that you create using the Student Subscription software to Microsoft app stores, including for revenue.” So yes you can use the software you download from Dreamspark to create apps and publish them on the Windows marketplace and you are compliant with the license agreement.
You will be asked to complete order information including your name and email address, and the option of subscribing to stay up to date on the latest Microsoft events and promotions (not a bad idea, sometimes we have some pretty awesome promotions!)
Finally you will get a window where you can choose to Start the Download of the software and you will get a product key to activate the software. You will be downloading an .ISO file, so you will need to burn it onto a CD, or find software that opens the .iso.
Tip: Once you have installed Windows 8 on your laptop, you’ll be able to open .iso and .vhd files directly! One more reason to download and install Windows 8 !
If your school does not have Dreamspark Premium and you are part of a technical program like Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or Information Technology, as examples, you should talk to your professor and see about getting your school subscribed to Dreamspark Premium, they can find the information on how to apply here.
If you have Dreamspark Standard, you can download Visual Studio, but you won’t be able to download the software for OS like Windows 8. So your best bet is to download Visual Studio and then download the Windows 8 90 day evaluation.
Just about any school can apply for Dreamspark Standard, so ask your teachers to look into applying here. But I realize not every school in Canada has Dreamspark (yet). So, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and provide us with evidence that you are a student in Canada, and we can provide you with a code to access Dreamspark standard. This will get you lots of great software (like Visual Studio!) to help you get coding, but you won’t be able to download the OS software like Windows 8. That is reserved for Dreamspark Premium members. You can still download a 90 day trial of Windows 8 here.
You’re building great functionally into your apps but don’t forget to the features that will make it shine on Windows 8.
Some of windows 8 features are new concepts. As developers we need to become familiar with them and learn when and how to use them. Windows 8 has new features such as contracts, personalization, and different views. Using these features will make your app more metro and will help it shine, some of these concepts require mastery to get published in the store. In this post I’m going to give you a checklist of features you should think about during design and development on the Windows 8 platform.
Windows 8 life cycle
It's important to understand the life cycle process of windows 8 and handle this in your code. When a user taps on an application to launch it, it is activated and enters Running mode. If the user closes the application it will be terminated. But what if the user user hits the Windows key and launches another application, or simply navigates to another application? In this case, the previous application will go to Suspended mode. In suspended mode, the application does not consume any CPU,but it will lose state, so you may need to add code to remember state when the app enters the suspended state. You will also want to add code in the Activated event handler to reload state when the user returns to the application
For more info, see App contracts and extensions.
For more info, see Supporting multiple views and Choosing a layout.
Engaging the user
For more information on what to consider when designing a Windows 8 app refer to the Detailed UX guidelines for Metro style apps. Happy coding!
The Azure team has been adding new resources and features to make it easier to use put your Java code in the cloud
If you are a Java programmer and are thinking it’s time to move some of the code to the cloud, either because you want to access it from mobile apps, or because you want to start up a small business but you don’t want to go buy multiple servers to set up redundancy and backups, or maybe like an unnamed student I know, you discovered your internet provider doesn’t take kindly to you hosting from your basement. There are lots of reasons to have Azure host your code, that’s not the point of this post, I want to show you some of the resources to help Java programmers specifically use Azure.
Your first stop should be the Windows Azure Java Developer Center, you’ll find information about developing and deploying Java apps on Windows Azure. I’ll highlight a couple of the resources in this blog, but there is a lot more at the developer center.
If that’s what you want to do there are a couple of useful tutorials to help you learn how to do it on Azure. The tutorials will help you set up a VM, configure to run your code and move your code to the cloud. By the way, No, the VM doesn’t have to be Windows Server. Yes, you can use Linux! Check out these tutorials for more info.
Take your pick, we have three SDKs you can download here
There’s also a good blog post on the Windows Azure team blog highlighting some of the new features for Java in Azure including some updates to the plugin for Eclipse and some authentication updates.
I just typed the words Mac, and Java in a blog on a Microsoft site, weird. Well, as a programmer I have always been a big fan of software that gives me choices and lets me choose how I want to do something, so personally I like this trend. The programming divide just got a little smaller.
How do you take the HTML you know and love and give it a Metro look and feel for Windows 8 apps?
The Windows 8 team put up an interesting blog post this week about how you take existing HTML controls and style them to look metro. You can read the full blog post here, but I’ll highlight a few of the key points to get you started.
Don’t forget if you are working on an app, or thinking of starting an app we have hackathons across Canada in August:
Now let’s look at some HTML! Let’s take a look at the perennial favourite HTML control: <button>
a simple button control will actually look different in a Windows 8 native app than it will in a browser like IE10.
Let’s say you define a button control using HTML and render that same code in IE10 and Windows 8
<button>Windows 8 Rocks!</button>
Button in IE10
Button in Windows 8 Metro app
There’s more to it than just a default CSS file.
They’ve reworked the ways controls are built so you have more flexibility when styling the controls. Most browsers render controls using previously generated images and when you apply a style to the control, the browser discards the hardcoded image, re-renders the control in a baseline look and then applies the style you requested on top of that baseline. You can’t style directly onto new styles.
It’s pretty cool what you can do! Here’s a couple of examples of styling a checkbox control.
The Windows 8 team blog post goes into a lot more detail, explaining best practices for making sure your buttons scale well across different screen sizes, handling touch, accessibility features, and more! Could that last website you built work as a Windows 8 app?
Imagine It! Build It! Live it!
A simple but well thought out math game that helps kids learn math won the Windows Phone Game Design category at the World finals Imagine Cup 2012
Learning through video games is not a new concept, but designing a game that is effective for learning new concepts and still fun to play is easier said than done. Often we think the most difficult part of game design is the graphics or the physics. But not every game requires the complexity and development time of Halo. Puzzle games like Angry Birds and Bejewelled are extremely popular, but aren’t necessarily the most difficult games to create. Sit and brainstorm with a few friends and maybe you can come up with a new puzzle or a new twist on a classic puzzle. MathDash is a great example of a game which accomplishes a lot with simple graphics and a well thought out concept. The game won Drexel Dragons first place at the Imagine Cup 2012 World Finals in Australia in the Windows Phone Game Design category.
MathDash was developed by the team Drexel Dragons from the United States. They decided to try and help kids with basic math concepts by designing a game that makes you want to practice. Traditionally, students learning to solve math problems sit down and memorize common solutions. This approach teaches children there is only one right answer. MathDash allows a player to explore multiple possible solutions, by giving the player a continually changing, limited selection of numbers. The player quickly learns that trying to solve a problem with only a single solution in mind won’t always work. The game encourages players to approach problems from a different perspective, giving them an intellectual advantage by teaching them to think outside the box. At the same time, players of any age can enjoy the simple, engaging gameplay while competing for the highest scores.
The result is more challenging than you would expect. When I first tried the game, I got the equation x + y = 12 and found my brain stymied when I didn’t see two numbers that added up to 12. Then I combined a 6 and 2 to make an 8, then I was able to drag an 8 and 4 to the formula bar to complete the equation. I was impressed, this actually required some brain power!
For now you can download the code but I look forward to seeing this app in the marketplace so I can give it to my kids (who are math geeks but will enjoy the mental challenge of the game). I hope the team builds a version for the Windows 8 marketplace as well, because this game will also work beautifully on a tablet or slate.
Congratulations Drexel Dragons on a great concept and strong execution! With Smartboards in classrooms and touch devices becoming more and more common, educational games are a great market. Parents are more likely to spend money on an app to teach their kids than on a game for themselves. Reading? Geography? Math? French? Russian? Sign language? How would you make learning fun?
Dream it. Build it. Live it!