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    The 24-hour Code-a-thon: MSP's perspective - By Alexander Yakobovich

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    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.

     

    Development and 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.

     

    "Solar 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 following day.

     

    Work hard, play hard

     

    It is worthy to note that despite the fact that DMZ is minutes away from the subway, student residence and even some students’ homes (myself included), the majority of students decided to stay for all 24 hours. While not every single waking moment was spent coding, the spirit of the code-a-thon remained high throughout the 24-hour time period.

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    Windows Phone 7 Development in UBC - Omri Wallach - MSP

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    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 the world.

     

    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

     

     

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    Code Your Heart Out - Competition

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    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 amazing prize:

     

    • First place: 10 000$;
    • Second place: 5 000$;
    • If you choose a project from the list TechSoup made, and you finish at the first or second place, you could win another 5 000$.

     

     

    1. Your application will be judge by three main criterias: Interoperability, Creativity and Usability.
    2. Your application will need to run on IIS or on Windows Azure.

     


     

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    2011 Canadian Competition on Microsoft Office - Trip to California

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    The Worldwide Competition on Microsoft Office is the best kept secret in Canada. Students who write their Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) exam in Word or Excel 2010, or Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 have this chance at their fingertips yet few realize how big of an opportunity it can be. All they have to do is select the option to enter their score and the score they get on the MOS exam will automatically be submitted. In June, CCI Learning Solutions Inc. will contact the top students and ask them to compete on behalf of Canada at the Worldwide Competition on Microsoft Office in August 2011. This year the competition is being held at the Torrey Pines Hilton in San Diego, California in conjunction with Certiport’s Global Partner Summit.

    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!

     

     

     

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    A Windows Phone 7 application that goes above and beyond - All the way to the outer atmosphere

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    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/

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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