Susan IbachTechnical Evangelist
I love coding enough to consider it to be a form of art. To
me, even fully functional code is only half-useful if it doesn’t follow
conventions, doesn’t contain proper documentation, and is not reusable. I
consider the definition of a properly written program as one that would qualify
for the Pulitzer Prize nomination. If it were a piece of literature that is.
With that said, I might have created an impression of
someone who would have doubts about a 24-hour coding session. Especially one
aimed specifically at mobile development. After all, completing a computer
science assignment overnight is one thing; producing market-ready and
contest-winning apps for a phone in a 24-hour period is another.
But the target platform of the 2011 Canada-wide
code-a-thons, Windows Phone 7, is no ordinary platform to develop for. It
doesn’t require a dozen independent installation packages just to create and
deploy a test app. It also doesn’t require you to consider a variety of different
devices you code will run on; it’s one platform, one build. And it most
certainly doesn’t turn your world upside down when it comes to the programming
language. Development for Windows Phone 7 is done with the same C# language
specification that is used for web, windows and even Xbox development. Game
development projects done with XNA, for instance, can be deployed to Windows,
Xbox and Windows Phone 7 without changing a single line of code (http://bit.ly/hAgYPO)!
A simple installation process, a powerful development
environment and an easy high-level programming language; all that sums up to
the fact that 24 hours allocated for coding will be spent doing just that. Sure
24-hours won’t yield a Pulitzer Prize winning app or artistically gorgeous
code, but for Windows Phone 7 development it could be more than enough to
produce an app that will sell to the world.
The March Code-a-Thon at Ryerson University took place at
the university’s DMZ lab. The Digital Media Zone (alright, go ahead and call it
Demilitarized Zone if you want to) is an incubator for Ryerson students who
wish to develop their ideas into commercial enterprises. But for 24 hours, the
Zone became home to a number of students who just wanted to create phone apps.
View of Yonge and
Dundas from DMZ
Armed with pizza and red bull, Ryerson, U of T, York and
other students from around GTA went on to create some pretty cool stuff.
testing in progress
As an MSP, I was tasked with assisting students, but that
didn’t prevent me from working on my app as well. Having worked with XNA
before, I decided to create something in 3D. I knew I wouldn’t finish on time,
but I figured I would at least attempt to impress the judges :)
The initial brainstorming sessions resulted in both fun and
useful apps. At the end of the event, Developer Evangelist, Joey deVilla,
encouraged everyone to submit their apps to the marketplace, with a bit more
tweaking after the code-a-thon.
Some memorable results included a fake call app, described
by Joey as a much needed app to get out of those occasional awkward situations.
The 4th place was given to a very simple app that showed a picture of a hand,
used the accelerometer to detected a “shove” motion, and played that killer
sentence that no one wants to hear (please don’t make me say it here). Joey
pointed out that sometimes it is the “simple & stupid” apps that become a big
hit, pointing out the fart app as an example.
Let’s just say that
the code-a-thon produced a bit more than fart apps
My app was a 3D view of the solar system. I grabbed flat
planet maps from NASA’s imagery website and wrapped them around spheres, which
were sized, placed and given orbits with relative constants for some factors,
such as orbital period, taken directly from - you guessed it - Wikipedia. The
attempt was simple and incomplete, but my goal to wow the judges succeeded to a
certain extent; I ended up in the second place.
Sailor" Planet scales had to be identical, otherwise, aside from Jupiter
and Saturn, nothing would be visible
The winning app was an implementation of the classic card
game “Durak”. The winner received Samsung’s flagship Windows Phone 7, Focus.
Another phone was given to the Digital Media Zone to encourage further WP7
development. A team within the Zone deployed their test apps on the phone the
Work hard, play hard
Battle of the Apps is underway, and some fellow UBC students
and I had a chance to meet with Dana Epp from Scorpion Software, a Microsoft’s
MVP (Most Valuable Professional). More than 80 students learned about XNA,
Silverlight, and using Visual Studio to create our own Windows Phone 7 Apps.
With Round 2 of the competition already underway and Round 3 in June, we
managed to learn from one of the best and we’re ready to bring our own Apps to
Along with highlighting App development, the talk highlighted
some of the functionalities of the Windows Phone 7 (presented using the
speaker’s Samsung Focus) and compared it with other smartphones in the wireless
market. Mr. Epp also showed us how to access our free developer accounts, as
students are entitled to DreamSpark developer accounts. We’ve already had one
semi-finalist for Battle of the Apps hail from British Columbia, and a room
full of engineers and computer scientist is eager to draw level. Round 2
submissions can be entered form March 15 – April 15. See you guys in Australia!
For DreamSpark information: http://www.dreamspark.com
For Windows Phone 7 information: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/
For Battle of the Apps information: http://www.battleoftheapps.ca
Code Your Art Out coding competition launched on March 1st and runs until June 1st. Show off your developer skills and earn up to 15k while helping out your community! Check here for more details.
You have a good
Web project idea that could help a non-profit organization? You need to register for the
competition. You will help an organization, and you get a chance to win some
One might ask why
this is such a big opportunity. Well, take it from someone who’s been through
it all. Emily Daubert was the Canadian
Champion in Word 2007 last year. Her score of 100% in 11 minutes beat the rest
of the competitors in Canada and she was offered the chance to represent her
country at the Worldwide competition in Park City, Utah. The fact that she can
say that she is #1 in the country in Microsoft Office Word 2007 is not something
you hear every day. Since this competition coincided with her graduating
college and finding a job, this addition to her resume was definitely a talking
point. She was offered multiple jobs that she would never have had the chance
at before winning the Canadian competition.
Then, at the
worldwide competition in August 2010, Emily surprised everyone by winning the
Word 2007 category and the title of “World Champion”. Considering that there
were 54 countries at this event and that no one from North America had ever
won, this was something to celebrate. It truly changed her life and gave her a
unique perspective on digital literacy that few have. Even more job offers came
in after her win but she chose to work with the company that sponsored her to go
to the competition – CCI Learning Solutions. Now she is building
a career that she couldn’t have even imagined before she got her MOS
certifications and participated in the Canadian and Worldwide competitions.
Hopefully her success
story can motivate students to get certified and try their best on the MOS
exams – to start thinking “imagine if…” and give students the inspiration to be
more than they thought possible. If they are chosen to represent Canada, they will
get to experience something that will be a once in a lifetime event. Students
will meet Microsoft representatives, other students from around the world, and
champions of digital literacy; the contacts they make at the competition will
give their career a major boost.
If a student is ready
to write their MOS exam, they need to go to an approved testing centre before June 15,
2011 and take the exam in one of the five categories mentioned above. June 15
is the deadline to write a qualifying MOS exam and CCI Learning
Solutions will contact the top students soon after. The
winning students must be between the ages of 13 and 22 in addition to being
enrolled in an approved academic institution. For more information on the
Canadian competition, visit the site at www.officecompetition.ca.
I hope this sparked
some excitement in the minds of those reading this blog. It’s not impossible
and it’s certainly not out of anyone’s reach. Good luck to everyone that’s
hoping to score high on their MOS exam and I hope that I’ll see you in August!
Dr Andras Sobester from Southampton University and team launched a Windows Phone 7 into the upper atmospheres using a helium ballon. "We are collecting data which will then plug in to various atmospheric
science projects, monitoring pollutants such as volcanic ash for example, and
informing the science behind modelling the climate and earth system in
general." The HTC 7 Trophy was used to log scientific data and to demonstrate the use of low-powered, light-weight commodity embedded device as a data logger. Microsoft Windows Azure was used as the back-end computing resource that the phone communicated and had its data interpreted.
During the phone's mission, it reached a maximum altitude of 18,237 meters during its 1h 16' flight. The phone sent its location coordinates to Azure server when it was in a GSM frequency range. The future is bright for the team as further missions will include external instruments linked to WP7 via Bluetooth stack. The WP7/Azure combination will form the trajectory modeling system for future missions. More information about the project may be found here:
ASTRA (Atmospheric Science Through Robotic Aircraft) initiative - http://www.soton.ac.uk/~astra/