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    The IT Challenge…can you make it to the next round?

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    ImagineCup_rgbOkay you’ve heard me talking about Imagine Cup last week, because I am really excited about the Canadian Imagine Cup Finals we’ll be hosting this year. You can start thinking about your entries for Software Design and Phone and putting together your teams. But in this post I’d like to talk about one of the other categories in Imagine Cup the IT Challenge! As Canadians were seen as the underdogs in just about everything except curling and hockey. Maybe it’s time we stepped up and showed the world we know IT as well! This category is an individual competition, so all you have to do is sign up and give it your best.

    Show off your brainpower in the Imagine Cup IT Challenge. Show off your knowledge of IT and how to support infrastructures. You’ll be faced with challenges to demonstrate your proficiency in networks, databases, and servers and how they all fit together. Come on give it a shot, why not? You never know? At least try the first round and see if you make it to the second…

    1. Register for Imagine Cup
    2. Try the practice quiz
    3. Take the Round 1 quiz before the deadline, the next IT Challenge Quiz is November 15th, 2011, but you can see a full list of the dates to choose from here. Score 15 or higher to advance to round 2. If you don’t pass the first time you can take it again the next time.
    4. You can even check the leaderboard to see how you did, if you qualify, let us know, this is the time to brag! Romania, France and Poland are the current leaders. But only 610 students had entered last time I checked, so there is lots of room for a Canadian to come in and take over.
    5. If you pass the quiz in Round 1 you advance to Round 2 where you complete a case study.
    6. The top 6 competitors are invited to compete in the Final Challenge a Virtual Hands-On-Lab where you complete tasks on a Hyper-V Host server by setting up and installing tools like Windows 2008 R2, Exchange 2010, Windows 7!

    All the details are posted at the Imagine Cup website – Register for the IT Challenge today

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    MSP Voice: MVC Walkthrough – Part 1

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    ASP.Net MVC Walkthrough - Gears of Web There so many great resources for learning ASP.Net MVC out there, especially on Scott Guthrie's blog. I found that the approach taken by most bloggers in their tutorials involves writing a project, while it is a great way to get the some hands-on experience, it can be overwhelming to first understand the context of the project and then how the MVC framework handles the project. In this walkthrough series, I will go through the beautiful ASP.Net MVC framework and attempt to explain its many cogs that interact to build powerful web applications. I won't be going in to any projects that involve restaurants or nerds. First let's get the gears of war err... web.

    Visual Studio 2010

    You might have heard of it, it's this amazing IDE we .Net-ers use. VS2010, like its predecessors comes in many editions. The VS2010 Express Edition is free and pretty sweet. Also, if you're a student, don't read any further and head over to DreamSpark and get yourself a fresh VS2010 Professional Edition. Yeah, pretty sweeter!

    Web Platform Installer

    This is something you might not have heard of. Using Web Platform Installer Microsoft distributes all its web components to us developers. It's got everything. Get it. Now.

    Nuget

    I have nothing else to say to you if you have not installed Nuget. It's the one tool that every .Net developer needs besides Visual Studio. With it, you'll be able to download from a plethora of community powered tools and projects that will make life and working with MVC a breeze.

    Everything else

    From here on, installing ASP.Net MVC 3 and updates for Visual Studio should be an easy exploration. Hint: Web PI. In my next post, I'll write about all the basics and background to MVC. Stay tuned!

    - Kowsheek Mahmood

     

    This post also appears on Code Trek.

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    Resources for Teaching Windows Phone - for anyone who needs to teach phone!

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    Whether you are a professor, an associate professor, instructor, or just thinking of delivering a lecture to your gaming club on Windows phone, it helps to have some resources at your disposal! My favourite resources are the ones that have been created for me. That’s why I wanted to take a minute to talk about some of the resources we have available to help introduce your audience how to develop for windows phone:

    • Devices
    • Tools
    • Incentives
    • Lectures

    Devices

    Need a phone for demonstrations or testing? It’s taken care of. I know that some applications are hard to test and visualize without having a physical device to test them. That’s why we have Windows Phones put aside to loan to faculty and technical clubs that can be used during a lecture to show the capabilities of the phone. Just email me at susan.ibach@microsoft.com and let me know when you need the devices so we can arrange to send them to you. If you are going to have students develop phone applications as part of a course, we can arrange for loans that will last for the duration of the course.

    Tools

    You need the software tools to develop a phone application? It’s taken care of! All the tools you need to develop a Windows Phone application are available at App Hub. You have a couple of options for your development environment. You can just download the Software Development Kit at App Hub and it will install Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone on your PC. But, since you are working with students, and students have access to Dreamspark, you may as well take advantage of it! You can download and install the full copy of Visual Studio 2010 Professional, and then download and install the Software Development Kit. This will just add the Phone projects and tools to your existing Visual Studio installation. If you are trying to teach good user interface design or graphic design to your students they can also install Microsoft Expression Studio Ultimate from Dreamspark which can be used to design graphics and prototype sketches of your phone application.

    Incentives

    Need a reason to build a phone application? It’s taken care of! There are many reasons to build a windows phone application. It’s the easiest mobile application platform to use, with Windows Phone you can focus on the code, and let the tools take care of everything else! You can get an application into a world wide marketplace while there is still room to be noticed. You can build your portfolio. You can apply the theory you are learning in class to the real world. You can make money. As an added incentive, right now we have a promotion called the Mango App Challenge (that promotion ended Dec 15th 2011, check out the Developer movement in effect until May 20th, 2012) , publish quality apps, get cool stuff like Kinect, Hard drive, or a phone!!

    Another great incentive to build a phone application is the Imagine Cup, a student competition that lets students shine on a world stage! In 2011/2012 there is a Windows Phone game category, and you can also use a Windows Phone app to develop a solution in the software design category. What better way to get your school noticed than to have a team represent you at the Canadian or World finals!

    Lectures

    Need slides and labs? It’s taken care of! You don’t have to create your slides and exercises from scratch. There are some great courses available to download from the Faculty Connection site

    We know it can be difficult to keep up with all the new technologies and incorporate them into your courses and programs. We’re trying to make it as easy as we can for you to teach students learn how to develop for Windows Phone. I highly recommend that if you are a professor, you sign up for the Faculty Newsletter to stay abreast of any new promotions or curriculum resources that become available on Windows Phone and other technologies.

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    Want Your Presentation to Rock? Hook Your Audience Early!

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    Every day professors there is a lecture room with someone standing up front talking about Fourrier Transforms or looping algorithms. Whether it’s a class presentation,  a lunch and learn for fellow students, or a presentation on a co-op term, all of us are called upon to present from time to time. When we put together a presentation it can be tricky to deliver the information the audience needs in a way that will hold their attention. You want a presentation that will grab and hold their attention. Luckily there is a very easy 5 slide structure you can use in your slide decks to quickly get the audience invested in your presentation.

    I really believe you have to get your audience hooked right from the beginning. Whether you are presenting at a conference, to a client, to your boss, or to co-workers. You want to make sure the audience understands what you will be talking about and why they should care right away! We all have limited time, so when I sit down to listen to someone else present I want to know right away what am I going to get out of this presentation.

    The structure I use at the start of my decks is based on the principles in Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson.

    Let’s say I wanted to talk to a group of programmers about developing an application for a Windows Phone. A typical presentation might start out with a slide that shows a picture of a windows phone, then it might display a slide that lists the tools you need to download to start developing, then a slide listing the hardware and software requirements to use the tools, you have a few slides talking about the different types of phone applications you can build, then maybe you do a Hello World example, and you do various code examples and demos and finish up with talking about how to publish an app to the marketplace. Sound about right? That’s fine, but it could be so much better! All you need to do is put careful thought into the first 5 slides!

    Slide 1 The Setting

    The very first slide in your deck should give your audience the setting, telling them where we are right now. Think of it like a sort of one sentence status update, a state of the union. Ideally this setting should be expressed as a single sentence with a single image on the slide to reinforce it. For example

    “The Windows Phone MarketPlace offers great opportunities to get noticed” and an image of someone who stands out in a crowd.

    Other examples of setting statements

    “SQL Server 2012 CTP3 has just been released”

    “MVC is becoming a popular model for web development”

    “All companies need accurate information to make decisions”

    Slide 2 The Protagonist

    The second slide should help the audience understand how they fit into this setting, so they can understand how your first statement is relevant to them. Again keep the slide simple, one sentence, one image!

    “You know .NET, so you can code a windows phone application” with a picture of a happy programmer, or the .NET logo, get creative have fun with it.

    Other examples

    “We are currently running SQL Server 2005”

    “Our team maintains 15 corporate websites”

    “We have 45 databases at our company storing 61 TB worth of data”

    Slide 3 The imbalance

    This slide should give a sense of the conflict, the problem, it should start to make people feel like we need to do something. Stick with the one sentence, one image format.

    “The Windows Phone Marketplace is an untapped opportunity” with a picture of Monty Burns from the Simpsons rubbing his hands together with glee (like I said you can have fun with the images)

    Other examples

    “We need the business intelligence features in SQL Server 2012”

    “None of our websites share code”

    “There is wealth of information in our data that can help our company succeed”

    Slide 4 The balance

    This slide should tell the audience the desired outcome, where we want to be in a week, a month, a year, or even in an hour when this presentation is completed. Oh and guess what format the slide should be…yup one sentence, one image. By the way lets be clear, I do mean an actual sentence, with punctuation and everything, a bullet point is not a sentence.

    “We want to develop windows phone applications” with an image of a windows phone showing the company logo on a tile

    Other examples

    “We need to upgrade to SQL Server 2012”

    “We want our code to be re-usable across websites”

    “We can get information about trends and patterns from our company data to plan company strategy”

    Slide 5 The solution

    Now it’s time to reveal what you will really be talking about in your slide deck, the solution, how will we get from where we are now to where we want to be, from the imbalance to the balance!

    “You can develop a phone application” with an image of a finger pointing at the audience.

    Other examples

    “There is an upgrade path from SQL 2005 to 2012”

    “MVC will allow us to re-use more of our code”

    “SQL Server Analysis Services cubes will help us report on trends in our data”

    Put it all together and it comes out like this

    The Windows Phone Marketplace offers great opportunities to get noticed. You know .NET, so you can code a windows phone application. The Windows Phone Marketplace is an untapped opportunity. We want to develop windows phone applications. You can develop a phone application

    or

    All companies need accurate information to make decisions. We have 45 databases at our company storing 61 TB worth of data. There is wealth of information in our data that can help our company succeed. We can get information about trends and patterns from our company data to plan company strategy. SQL Server Analysis Services cubes will help us report on trends in our data

    If you were in the audience after these slides, would you know what was coming next? that’s the whole point, now I understand what you’ll be covering, how I am affected, and why we are having this discussion.

    Just 5 slides and you are well on your way to a great presentation. An interesting aspect of these first 5 slides: they don’t take long to cover in your audience. I probably average about 30 seconds a slide on these. So they add very little to your overall presentation time yet they go such a long way towards setting the stage for the rest of your presentation. So next time you are firing up PowerPoint, before you jump straight into the content, take a minute to think about those first 5 slides. By the way, if you go back and read the first 5 sentences of this blog post…you’ll see this format can work for introductions to blogs as well Smile

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    Intern Voice: Jessica’s Windows Phone experience – continued

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    I'm adjusting. It's been very quick and pain free but the time came where I had to bury my little flip phone and start fresh and what a fresh start it is!

    Let me first say how much I love texting. There are few things I hate more than phone calls that last years when all you wanted to know was someone' address. A text saves time and, especially if it's a long distance call, saves me money. I love how this phone groups my texts into threads! At a glance I can see an entire conversation and I don't have to scroll through a ton of texts trying to see what I said last.

    It's not just easy to read though, it's easy to text. I love how the user interface swivels to a side view and gives me the option of a wider keyboard. I have to admit, my old phone had a flip out keyboard from the side and I got used to using that type of keyboard for texting. I had no problems adjusting to an onscreen keyboard. The keys are sensitive but not overly sensitive and I don’t have to worry about my fat fingers getting in my way. If I'm using the map and try to zoom in or out, the screen is responsive and reads me well. The way the user interface adjusts to horizontal versus vertical views is quick and convenient.

    To put the next comment in context I need to say that I love sleep. Without my 8 hours I go into zombie mode and let me tell you, it ain't pretty. I was pleasantly surprised by the alarms available on the phone. Not the tones themselves though. They're pretty and I do like them, but let's be honest, it doesn't matter how good they sound, after it makes you get up at 5 am, you will hate that sound for the rest of your life. Instead, my Windows Phone allowed me to set multiple alarms. Now I've got one for weekends, one for weekdays and one for those days where you accidentally hit Dismiss instead of Snooze and end up missing your bus.

    After I had made three alarms, I got curious. How many could I set? What if I had the world's most confusing schedule? Turns out the Windows Phone takes it like a champ! After setting about 30 alarms I could tell that my phone was going to be able to take anything I threw at it (though I don't suggest throwing things at any prized possessions). You may think, when would you ever need 3 or more alarms? The truth is that on school terms, I value sleeping in and I like to not have to set one alarm for 7am every day. If I can set Monday, Wednesday, Friday to 7 am and Tuesday, Thursday to 9am, I will be a happy camper.

    What else do I love? The camera. 5 megapixels might not seem much to you but it's clear the difference between the 3 I had on my last phone and the 5 I have now. Also, my phone is better than my current digital camera at taking panorama shots and stitching them together. With a handy tracker that lets you know where to place your camera so you get the perfect shot, I'm suddenly in love with the idea of capturing my surrounding. Now I can capture my full view and share it with my friends!

    So now you're bored with me. Alarms, texting, the camera. Doesn't look like I'm pushing it very much does it? I agree. Which is why I've decided to test this little buddy on the fly. What do I mean by on the fly? Me and my Windows Phone are going to FearFest.

    - Jessica Pellow

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