Dev Pulse

Sounding the pulse of the developer and development manager

June, 2011

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  • Dev Pulse

    What’s In the Cloud: Canada Does Windows Azure - Scanvee

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    image_thumb3_thumb2_thumb2_thumb2

    Since it is the week leading up to Canada day, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate Canada’s birthday by sharing the stories of Canadian developers who have developed applications on the Windows Azure platform. A few weeks ago, I started my search for untold Canadian stories in preparation for my talk, Windows Azure: What’s In the Cloud, at Prairie Dev Con. I was just looking for a few stores, but was actually surprised, impressed, and proud of my fellow Canadians when I was able to connect with several Canadian developers who have either built new applications using Windows Azure services or have migrated existing applications to Windows Azure. What was really amazing to see was the different ways these Canadian developers were Windows Azure to create unique solutions.

    This week, I will share their stories.

    Leveraging Windows Azure for Mobile Applications

    Back in May, we talked about leveraging Windows Azure for your next app idea. We talked about the obvious scenarios of using Windows Azure – web applications. Lead, for example, is a web-based API hosted on Windows Azure. Election Night is also a web-based application, with an additional feature – it can be repackaged as a software-as-a-service (hosted on a platform-as-a-service). (More on this in future posts) Connect2Fans is an example of a web-based application hosted on Windows Azure. With Booom!!, we saw Windows Azure being used as a backend to a social application.

    Today, we’ll see how Tony Vassiliev from Gauge Mobile and his team used Windows Azure as the backend for their mobile application.

    Gauge Mobile

    Scanvee - Mobile Barcode & NFC Management Platform by Gauge Mobile Solutions Inc. 

    Gauge Mobile’s focus lies in mobile communications solutions. Scanvee, their proprietary platform, provides consumers, business and agencies the ability to create, manage, modify and track mobile barcode (ie. QR codes) and Near Field Communication (NFC) campaigns. Scanvee offers various account options to accommodate all business needs, from a basic free account to a fully integrated enterprise solution. Essentially, Gauge Mobile helps businesses of all sizes communicate more effectively with their consumers through mobile devices. They provide the tools to track and analyze their activities and make improvement in future communications.

    Jonathan: When you guys were designing Scanvee, what was the rationale behind your decision to develop for the Cloud, and more specifically, to use Windows Azure?

    Tony: Anything in the cloud makes more sense for a start-up.  The advantages which equally apply to mobility can always be summed up to: affordability, scalability, and risk mitigation by reducing administrative requirements and increasing reliability. Microsoft has a definitive advantage when it comes to supporting their developer community.  Windows Azure integration into existing development environments such as Visual Studio and SQL Server makes it easier and more efficient to develop for Azure. As well, naturally, utilization of existing technologies such as .Net framework and SQL Server are beneficial. Lastly, Platform-as-a-service model works better for us as a start-up than infrastructure-as-a-service offerings such as Amazon EC2. Azure offers turnkey solutions for load balancing, project deployment, staging environments and automatic upgrades. In conjunction with SQL Azure which replicates SQL Server in the cloud, total risk and administration costs of Azure solutions are less than an investment in EC2 where we still need to setup, configure and maintain our development and production environments internally. 

    Jonathan: What Windows Azure services are you using? How are you using them?

    Tony: We are using a Windows Azure compute services - a web role (to which the mobile application connects) at the moment and we have a worker role in the works for background processing of large data inputs, outputs, invoice generation and credit card processing. We are also using one business SQL Azure database to hold the application's data and one for QA. We will be using sharding once we are at a point where we need to scale. Access Control and SQL Azure Reporting are two other features that we have on our roadmap.  Access Control for integration into third party social networks and SQL Azure Reporting for our analytics. We may also end up using SQL Azure Sync depending on the state of SQL Azure and upcoming features for back up and point in time restores..

    Jonathan: During development, did you run into anything that was not obvious and required you to do some research? What were your findings? Hopefully, other developers will be able to use your findings to solve similar issues.

    Tony: There were few minor hiccups but nothing significant, everything was pretty straight forward!

    Jonathan: Lastly, how did you and your team ramp up on Windows Azure? What resources did you use? What would you recommend for other Canadian developers to do in order to ramp up and start using Windows Azure??

    Tony: Our senior engineer and architect is a .NET expert who had previously heard of Azure.  He came equipped with all of Microsoft's development tools which provide good integration for Azure development.  We started with a free account on Azure, created a prototype web role, deployed it, and sure enough it was a very simple and elegant procedure and we have continued to use Azure since.

    As you can see, when it comes to mobile platforms, Windows Azure offers you an easy way to add backend services for your applications without having to put strain on the device. If your application has intensive processing and data requirements, such as Scanvee, you’ll need the infrastructure capacity in the backend to be able to support those requirements. Windows Azure can do that for you in a matter of a few clicks with no upfront infrastructure or configuration costs. Check out Connecting Windows Phone 7 and Slates to Windows Azure on the Canadian Mobile Developers’ Blog to get a deeper understand of how these platforms can work together. Once you’ve done that, get started by downloading the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7 or for iOS and working through Getting Started With The Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7 and iOS.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tony for sharing his story. For more information on Gauge Mobile, check out their site, follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

    Tomorrow – another Windows Azure developer story.

    Join The Conversation

    What do you think of this solution’s use of Windows Azure? Has this story helped you better understand usage scenarios for Windows Azure? Join the Ignite Your Coding LinkedIn discussion to share your thoughts.

    Previous Stories

    Missed previous developer stories in the series? Check them out here.

  • Dev Pulse

    Long Weekend Plans? One Word – Mango

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    It’s finally here! The first long weekend of the summer! Looks like all of the stars aligned, giving us an amazing opportunity to spend three whole days ramping up on Windows Phone 7 Mango.

    Yesterday, Brandon Watson of the Windows Phone team announced the availability of the Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta 2 on the Windows Phone Developer Blog. There’s lots of new features to play with in this release and some new goodies as well. Check out the release notes for a complete listing. To top the news of the release of the new tools, the Mango OS can now be put on your retail Windows Phone 7 device so that you can test out features like fast app resume, updated Live Tiles, motion sensor, live agents, sockets, background audio, and raw camera access on your retail Windows Phone 7 device.

    I mentioned that the stars aligned – well that’s not just because the tools were released or that you can now update your phone. It’s actually that you can do all of that AND have Windows Phone 7 expert and Microsoft MVP Mark Arteaga (@MarkArteaga) to guide you through exploring these really cool updates!

    Get Started

    1. First, go get the tools. You’ll need to update your developer tools to update your phone and to deploy your apps. Read the instructions before updating – These are very important steps which you need to follow to the letter. The Windows Phone team is committed to supporting you with such an early access program, so if you have questions, start with the forums, which they are monitoring.
    2. Update your retail phone to Mango using the instructions included with the tools download. Make sure to save your backup somewhere safe (maybe on your machine and on an external device as well – you can never be too sure).
    3. Head over to Mark’s blog where he’s prepared some walkthroughs for you.

      Windows Phone 7 and Multitasking Revisited
      Windows Phone Multitasking - Fast Application Switching
      Windows Phone Multitasking - Scheduled Notifications
      Windows Phone and Database Support
      New Windows Phone Device Status APIs
      Windows Phone Launchers and Choosers
      Augmented Reality and Windows Phone 7 - Part 2
      Quick Tip: Theme Aware Icons

    Make sure you stay tuned to Mark’s blog and follow him on Twitter. With 1500 new APIs in Mango, have no doubt that there will be additional walkthroughs posted in these months coming up to the Mango release and beyond.

    From your team here at Microsoft Canada, we all wish you a safe and enjoyable weekend! Happy learning!

    On behalf of Canadian mobile developers, I’d like to thank you, Mark, for guiding us on this exciting journey.

    About Mark Arteaga

    Mark Arteaga is Founder and President of RedBit Development which specializes in helping customers such as Bell Media (formerly CTVGlobeMedia), The Globe & Mail and MTV implement mobile based solutions. Mark has an extensive background in software development and has dedicating the last 10 years to the trade. Mark has also been awarded Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional award 6 years in a row for his role in the Windows Phone developer community and is the only Windows Phone Developer MVP in Canada. Mark is often speaking to the developer community at various events about mobile based solutions throughout Canada. You can contact Mark via his blog at blog.markarteaga.com, mark@redbitdev.com or follow him twitter.com/MarkArteaga on Twitter.

  • Dev Pulse

    What’s In the Cloud: Canada Does Windows Azure - Booom!!

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    image_thumb3_thumb2_thumb2

    Since it is the week leading up to Canada day, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate Canada’s birthday by sharing the stories of Canadian developers who have developed applications on the Windows Azure platform. A few weeks ago, I started my search for untold Canadian stories in preparation for my talk, Windows Azure: What’s In the Cloud, at Prairie Dev Con. I was just looking for a few stores, but was actually surprised, impressed, and proud of my fellow Canadians when I was able to connect with several Canadian developers who have either built new applications using Windows Azure services or have migrated existing applications to Windows Azure. What was really amazing to see was the different ways these Canadian developers were Windows Azure to create unique solutions.

    This week, I will share their stories.

    Leveraging Windows Azure for Social Applications

    Back in May, we talked about leveraging Windows Azure for your next app idea. We talked about the obvious scenarios of using Windows Azure – web applications. Lead, for example, is a web-based API hosted on Windows Azure. Election Night is also a web-based application, with an additional feature – it can be repackaged as a software-as-a-service (hosted on a platform-as-a-service). (More on this in future posts) Connect2Fans is an example of a web-based application hosted on Windows Azure. But we also talked other, not-as-obvious scenarios such as extensions for SharePoint and CRM, mobile applications, and social applications.

    Today, we’ll see how Karim Awad and Trevor Dean of bigtime design used Windows Azure to build their social application, Booom!! (recognize the application? Booom!! was also featured at the Code Your Art Out Finals)

    Booom!!!

    logo

    Booom!! allows you to receive the information you want from your favourite brands and pages on Facebook. No more piles of messages in the "Other" box or constant posts to your wall. Booom!! only sends the stuff you want and drops it right into your personal Booom Box. Booom!! provides a simplified messaging system for both page admins and Facebook users.

    At the Code Your Art Out Finale, I had a chance to chat with Karim and Trevor, the founders and developers of Booom!! about how they built Booom!! using Windows Azure.

    Jonathan: When you guys were designing Booom!!, what was the rationale behind your decision to develop for the Cloud, and more specifically, to use Windows Azure?

    Karim: We chose cloud technologies for the app not only because it was a technical requirement for the competition (Code Your Art Out) but we are always conscious of scalability with everything that we build. We want our applications to be able to grow with their user base and cloud technology allows us to accomplish this without much financial investment.

    Trevor: We were in the final stages of evaluating Amazon’s EC2 when we entered into the Code Your Art Out competition. We were excited to hear the Windows Azure was a technical requirement because we wanted to evaluate Microsoft’s cloud solution as well. I found the Azure management portal to be very intuitive and with little effort I had commissioned a database and deployed a WCF service to the Cloud. This same scenario on Amazon would have taken at least twice as long and I would have also had to have previously installed SQL Server and any other supporting applications. One feature I saw as a real benefit was being able to promote your code from staging servers to production servers. It was a no brainer after the first deployment attempt. We are a start-up and we have limited resources and limited finances, using Azure helps to ease those pains and remain competitive.

    Jonathan: What Windows Azure services are you using? How are you using them?

    We're All InTrevor:  We have a .NET WCF service hosted in a Windows Azure hosted service – a web role. Our PHP-based Facebook application front-end application talks to the service in Azure. We are currently working on deploying the front-end onto Azure as well, and then we will also start taking advantage of the storage services to optimize the front-end client performance. Then, we will be “all in”!

    Jonathan: During development, did you run into anything that was not obvious and required you to do some research? What were your findings? Hopefully, other developers will be able to use your findings to solve similar issues.

    Trevor: We did experience some issues with getting PHP deployed to the Cloud and we are still working through those issues. We used the command line tool (Windows Azure Command-line Tools for PHP) to create the deployment package and everything worked great in the DevFabric but when I deployed, I would get a "500 - Internal server error". I have determined the issue is with my "required" declaration but I'm not sure why and I could not find much documentation on this or on how to enable better error messaging or get access to logs. Still working on that. Otherwise, everything was smooth!

    Jonathan: Lastly, what were some of the lessons you and your team learned as part of ramping up to use Windows Azure or actually developing for Windows Azure?

    Trevor: Microsoft has always built intuitive tools and Azure is another great example. There will be many things I'm sure we will learn about cloud technologies and Azure specifically but for now it was nice to see that what we did already know was reinforced.

    Karim: Azure is an impressive piece of technology that will help many small to large business grow and scale. It's nice to see Microsoft playing nicely with other technologies as well – WordPress, PHP, MySQL, etc.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Karim and Trevor for sharing their story. When you have a chance, check out Booom!!. Enter your email address so that you can receive an invite to the beta release when it is ready. I had the opportunity to see Booom!! being demonstrated – looks pretty cool. I, for one, am looking forward to giving it a test drive. Stay tuned for pictures and videos from the demonstration.

    Tomorrow – another Windows Azure developer story.

    Join The Conversation

    What do you think of this solution’s use of Windows Azure? Has this story helped you better understand usage scenarios for Windows Azure? Join the Ignite Your Coding LinkedIn discussion to share your thoughts.

    Previous Stories

    Missed previous developer stories in the series? Check them out here.

    This post also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

  • Dev Pulse

    What’s In the Cloud: Canada Does Windows Azure - Connect2Fans

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    image_thumb3_thumb2

    Since it is the week leading up to Canada day, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate Canada’s birthday by sharing the stories of Canadian developers who have developed applications on the Windows Azure platform. A few weeks ago, I started my search for untold Canadian stories in preparation for my talk, Windows Azure: What’s In the Cloud, at Prairie Dev Con. I was just looking for a few stores, but was actually surprised, impressed, and proud of my fellow Canadians when I was able to connect with several Canadian developers who have either built new applications using Windows Azure services or have migrated existing applications to Windows Azure. What was really amazing to see was the different ways these Canadian developers were Windows Azure to create unique solutions.

    This week, I will share their stories.

    Connect2Fans

    Connect2Fans is a BizSpark Startup who has developed a solution to support artists, writers, musicians, photographers, and other people in the arts and entertainment industry who are finding it difficult to connect directly with their fans.  With Connect2Fans, artists have complete control over all fees that are charged to their fans, which will lower or eventually eliminate service fees altogether. Through the Connect2Fans software, the artists and entertainment industry personnel will be able to offer inventory items such as digital files (MP3s, Ringtones, Videos, PDF Books, Software etc), tangible merchandise (CDs, DVDs, t-shirts, photos, and paintings), ticketing (barcoded, PDF, and reserved seating) and hospitality services (restaurants, limo, and VIP services amongst others).

    I had a chance to sit down with Jason Lavigne (@Jason_Lavigne), co-founder and director of Connect2Fans to find out how he and his team built Connect2Fans using Windows Azure.

    Jonathan: When you and your team were designing Connect2Fans, what was the rationale behind your decision to develop for the Cloud, and more specifically, to use Windows Azure?

    Jason: Dave Monk and I put together a video that answers just that.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Jonathan: What Windows Azure services are you using? How are you using them?

    Jason: We are using Web Roles, Worker Roles, Windows Azure Storage, and SQL Azure.  The one item that we think that would be unique would be our use of MongoDB for our main data store that allows us to maintain 10,000+ concurrent connections per node.

    Jonathan: During development, did you run into anything that was not obvious and required you to do some research? What were your findings? Hopefully, other developers will be able to use your findings to solve similar issues.

    Jason: The biggest gotcha would be the throughput of Windows Azure Storage Tables (internally we call this Azure DHT) was too slow for the kind of traffic we needed to support.  Our solution was to setup MongoDB in worker roles for writes and a replica set on each web role for reads. 

    Jonathan: Lastly, what were some of the lessons you and your team learned as part of ramping up to use Windows Azure or actually developing for Windows Azure?

    Jason: Every day we are learning more and more, but the biggest lesson I learned while learning and using Windows Azure was that Microsoft is a fantastic resource for support.  I am not just saying that because you are from Microsoft, I am serious when I say that Microsoft has made it clear from the very beginning that they are there for us and the have certainly stepped up when we needed it. 

    That’s it for today’s interview with Jason. As you can see, Jason and his team broke away from what you would consider the norm.  The Windows Azure platform’s flexibility and ability to custom tailor to a specific set of requirements allowed them to achieve the best results for their specific solution.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jason for sharing his story. If you’d like to find out more about Connect2Fans, you can check out the site, Twitter, and Facebook. To find out more about how Connect2Fans is using the Windows Azure platform, you can reach out to Jason on Twitter.

    Tomorrow – another Windows Azure developer story.

    Join The Conversation

    What do you think of this solution’s use of Windows Azure? Has this story helped you better understand usage scenarios for Windows Azure? Join the Ignite Your Coding LinkedIn discussion to share your thoughts.

    Previous Stories

    Missed previous developer stories in the series? Check them out here:

    Lead
    Election Night

    This post also appears on Canadian Developer Connection.

  • Dev Pulse

    What’s In the Cloud: Canada Does Windows Azure – Election Night

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    image_thumb3

    Since it is the week leading up to Canada day, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate Canada’s birthday by sharing the stories of Canadian developers who have developed applications on the Windows Azure platform. A few weeks ago, I started my search for untold Canadian stories in preparation for my talk, Windows Azure: What’s In the Cloud, at Prairie Dev Con. I was just looking for a few stores, but was actually surprised, impressed, and proud of my fellow Canadians when I was able to connect with several Canadian developers who have either built new applications using Windows Azure services or have migrated existing applications to Windows Azure. What was really amazing to see was the different ways these Canadian developers were Windows Azure to create unique solutions.

    This week, I will share their stories.

    Election Night

    On any given election night, the biggest challenge to accomplish successfully is the collection of data. Most campaigns have volunteers numbering in the hundreds out at polling stations scrutineering the results. The polls close across ridings at the same time, so that data comes in fast and furious. In almost every typical scenario, it gets lost. Election Night streamlines the data input process as much as possible, and where possible, allow for remote data input by the scrutineers themselves, so that as much of that valuable data is captured as quickly as possible. In addition, Election Night helps decide the best way to allocate volunteers to the polls through data visualization techniques.

    Postmedia Inc., the company that maintains canada.com featured the application on their public site. See how the application was integrated into the site – Riding by Riding and Poll by Poll. You can also access the application directly on Windows Azure - Election Night National Viewer and Election Night District Viewer.

    I had a chance to sit down with John White (@diverdown1964), CTO of UnlimitedViz, Microsoft SharePoint Server MVP, and one of the developers of Election Night to find out how he and his team built Election Night using Windows Azure.

    Jonathan: When you and your team were designing Election Night, what was the rationale behind your decision to develop for the Cloud, and more specifically, to use Windows Azure?

    John: The technology to support these requirements have been around for quite some time. However, and election campaign is ephermal. It lives for about 5 weeks and then disappears. The cost required to implement the required infrastructure to support such a solution has been prohibitive, and the skill required to support remote access has been beyond the ability of most local campaigns. Windows Azure was an obvious fit, primarily because it required no infrastructure, but also because it was easy to access from anywhere.

    Jonathan: What Windows Azure services are you using? How are you using them?

    John: The solution uses both Windows Azure and SQL Azure. The Windows Azure instance contains a Silverlight application that uses RIA Services to connect back to an Entity Framework model. That model connects to the data housed in SQL Azure. In addition, standard ASP.NET pages are also available for interaction with generic smartphones and tablets. When the visualization capabilities were needed by a major media outlet, we were able to package a subset of the application, allow them to deploy it to their Windows Azure instance, and still maintain the data in our SQL Azure instance [Software-as-a-service using Platform-as-a-service]

    Jonathan: During development, did you run into anything that was not obvious and required you to do some research? What were your findings? Hopefully, other developers will be able to use your findings to solve similar issues.

    John: The only difficulties that we ran into were typical early adoption type issues. For example, the standard Silverlight RIA services implementation does not bundle the required libraries for Windows Azure. These were overcome by consulting with Channel 9 videos (like these videos) and published Microsoft guidance.

    Jonathan: Lastly, what were some of the lessons you and your team learned as part of ramping up to use Windows Azure or actually developing for Windows Azure?

    John: Lessons learned? Not very many! Don’t leave too many Windows Azure instances running indefinitely. Your developer allocation doesn’t cover the required cost. Also that SQL Azure storage is very, very cost effective, and fast. Our solution is serving up a million rows with complex queries and geo-encoded data.

    Jonathan: Any last comments and/or thoughts you’d like to share about Windows Azure?

    John: Election Nights fortifies our position of continuing to build cloud based applications with scale. By leveraging the Azure technology platform we were able to repackage components from a much larger application into what Postmedia needed for their website in less than one week. Developing to a common infrastructure meant that we no longer worry about the common deployment roadblocks of matching our application requirements to our client’s environment. It just works!

    That’s it for today’s interview with John. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank John for sharing his story. Tomorrow – another Windows Azure developer story.

    Previous Stories

    Missed previous developer stories in the series? Check them out here:

    Lead

    This post also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

  • Dev Pulse

    What’s In the Cloud: Canada Does Windows Azure – Lead

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    image

    Since it is the week leading up to Canada day, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate Canada’s birthday by sharing the stories of Canadian developers who have developed applications on the Windows Azure platform. A few weeks ago, I started my search for untold Canadian stories in preparation for my talk, Windows Azure: What’s In the Cloud, at Prairie Dev Con. I was just looking for a few stores, but was actually surprised, impressed, and proud of my fellow Canadians when I was able to connect with several Canadian developers who have either built new applications using Windows Azure services or have migrated existing applications to Windows Azure. What was really amazing to see was the different ways these Canadian developers were Windows Azure to create unique solutions.

    This week, I will share their stories.

    image

    Lead is a worldwide leaderboard platform which developers can integrate into their games to engage its users. Lead provides
    a consistent reliable service and a growing ecosystem of products for developers regardless of the platform on which they develop. Lead is developed by Fersh, a student digital multimedia start-up based out of Toronto, Ontario. Fersh’s portfolio includes a number of award-winning mobile games, applications and developer resources. Fersh offers a range of products and services including consulting and customized software solutions across several platforms.

    I had a chance to sit down with one of Lead’s developers, Kowsheek Mahmood (@aredkid) to find out how he and his team built Lead using Windows Azure.

    Jonathan: Kowsheek, when you and the team were designing Lead, what was the rationale behind your decision to develop for the Cloud, and more specifically, to use Windows Azure?

    Kowsheek: Being a start-up company with constrained funding, it was not feasible for us to have multiple dedicated servers for Lead. Furthermore, since we wanted Lead to provide a consistent experience across geographical locations, a distributed solution was the right fit.
    At Fersh we use Microsoft technologies to develop our applications which range from games to mobile and web applications. We chose Windows Azure because we could use our existing knowledge of the technologies involved and leverage them well. Also, Windows Azure provided for high availability and a flexible utility-style service, that fulfilled our requirements and was affordable.

    Jonathan: What Windows Azure services are you using? How are you using them?

    Kowsheek: We are using Windows Azure Compute Web Role instances to host the frontend site, as well as our simple but really powerful API with developers will integrate in their games. SQL Azure hosts our databases in which we store the leaderboard data for each game using the API. We are also using Blob Storage and the Content Delivery Network (CDN) for static content, distributed to different geographic regions.

    Jonathan: During development, did you run into anything that was not obvious and required you to do some research? What were your findings? Hopefully, other developers will be able to use your findings to solve similar issues.

    Kowsheek: While working with the ASP.NET Membership service, initially it wasn't clear how the database on SQL Azure would have to be built. A quick Bing search showed that there is a tool similar to the regular tool called "aspnet_regsqlazure" that builds the database. You can find out more in this support article. Once we downloaded the proper files and ran them against the database, all was well.

    Jonathan: Lastly, what were some of the lessons you and your team learned as part of ramping up to use Windows Azure or actually developing for Windows Azure?

    Kowsheek: Initially, dedicated servers seemed feasible but after taking into consideration things like scalability and reliability, the hosting solutions seemed to fall short, so it always serves well to consider all the requirements and available options from the get-go.

    That’s it for today’s interview with Kowsheek Mahmood of Fersh about their application Lead. Lead is currently in Alpha release but has already been integrated into several games, such as the popular Windows Phone 7 game Sudoku3D (Facebook, Twitter). If you’re a game developer, Lead is definitely something to check out. Perhaps you could even participate in testing Lead.

    Tomorrow – another Windows Azure developer story.

    This post also appears on the Canadian Developer Connection.

  • Dev Pulse

    Code Your Art Out Finale – The Apps and the Winner

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    On June 10, we announced the finalists of Code Your Art Out, a “wicked” coding competition, as described on the competition’s home page. Last night, the Code Your Art Out Finale was held at the BizMedia Rooftop in downtown Toronto and was packed with developers, designers, people who are passionate about non-profits, other Code Your Art Out contestants, the finalists, and their close friends and family.

    To kick off the finale, some of the Code Your Art Out contestants had the opportunity to present their submissions. Even though they didn’t make it to the finale, their apps were fantastic, exemplifying the openness and interoperability of the Microsoft stack.

    Here’s a recap of the apps:

    image Booom!!
    Karim Awad, Trevor Dean (of bigtime design)

    Booom!! is the only system which allows you to receive the information you want from your favourite brands and pages on Facebook. No more piles of messages in the "Other" box or constant posts to your wall. Booom!! only sends the stuff you want and drops it right into your personal Booom Box. Booom!! provides a simplified messaging system for both page admins and Facebook users.

    Technologies Used: .NET 3.5, PHP, SQL Server 2008, Windows Azure, Facebook API, jQuery  
       
    image Care
    Kowasheek Mahmood (of Fersh Co.)

    Care is a secure portal for patients to log in and create reports of symptoms and side effects of their conditions so that they can actively take part in the medical process. Care allows health-care professionals to see data from their respective patients as symptoms are logged. For patients, Care allows them to find information on how to manage their symptoms based on input of professionals. Care is built with extendibility and modularity in mind so that it can be deployed for many other organizations, hopefully benefitting many patients by helping them stay connected with their health-care professionals.

    Technologies Used: .NET 4, ASP.NET MVC 3, Windows Azure, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, jQuery, Ninject, BlueprintCSS CSS Framework, iTextSharp.
       
     

    ProfessorPedia
    Tony Yang and Team

    ProfessorPedia is both a social and an informational platform for students’ daily academic lives. It captures several main features of students basic academic needs: Professor rating, book trading, student forum, and WikiNote. On the professor rating system, users can have access to professors’ basic information and students’ comments on his/her courses easily by searching for the professor’s name or the course name. ProfessorPedia’s book trading system is designed for both first and second hand textbook trade and exchange between post-secondary students. The student forum is what the name suggests - a place to relax, spread, and gather feeling and warmth. Students can chat and discuss course materials in the forum as well as through the integrated online chatting system.

    Technologies Used: Windows Azure, PHP, jQuery, Data Mining, CakePHP

       
    image Epilogger (Semi-Finalists)
    Michael Nussbacher, Chris Brooker, Rebecca C-Palacios

    Epilogger is epilogue + blogger and is all about immortalizing all the hottest happenings in your city. It creates a permanent time capsule of the event for you and your friends to enjoy for years to come. It’ll even arrange all your memories into a sweet scrapbook with analytics and content from everyone who took part whether they were at the event in person or in spirit!

    Technologies Used: .NET 4.0, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 RS, Windows Azure, ASP.NET MVC 3, IIS7, Windows Server 2008 R2, jQuery, Twitter API, Foursquare API, Facebook API, TwitPic, YFrog, and Plixi.

    And the winner of Code Your Art Out and the recipient of $10,000 is…

    image Save the Rain
    Mark Laudon

    The Save the Rain Water Productivity Calculator utilizes open data sources to actually make a difference in the world. This creative app strives to deliver a tool for developing worlds and areas suffering from water shortage. This original app also provides an avenue to raise awareness of how high a value rain water can have in the production of crops/hunger resolution. The application is easy to use, and, requires no training. The app determines how much rain you receive in a year and calculates your rainfall savings potential.

    Technologies Used: Windows Azure, Google Maps, ESRI's ArcGIS API for JavaScript, Hosted ArcGIS Server Web Mapping Service

    Congratulations to Epilogger, second place winners of Code Your Art out and the recipients of $5,000.

    The competition was tough and each of the participants put in their all to achieve excellence in the three judging criteria (Interoperability, Creativity, Usage), creating applications that are truly unique and have real world uses. Congratulations to all!

    Stay tuned as we talk to each of the contestants about their applications and the technologies they used.

    This post also appears in the Canadian Developer Connection

  • Dev Pulse

    Where do you get your “In Person” fix?

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    c4My team is in the midst of our planning cycle right now and a question came up that has us scratching our heads. “What conferences or face to face activities do developers and architects in Canada attend in order to get training and keep up to date on what’s out there?” Times have changed – there used to be a lot of conferences and activities years ago – but what about now? Oh – I am also talking about ones NOT PUT ON BY MICROSOFT. We’re trying to think outside of the box here. Drop me an email (jonathan.rozenblit@microsoft.com), tweet me a reply (@jrozenblit), chime in on Twtsurvey or LinkedIn or comment below!

    There’s the big conferences such as TechDays and Prairie Dev Con, or alternatively, your company might have internal lunch and learns and team knowledge building activities, but there has to be more out there.

    This is part of a larger conversation that we’ve had together. You’ve heard me talk about investing in yourself and your skills – external training /info sessions/partner events are one avenue to stretch that training budget. It still takes a withdrawal on your personal time budget. Going out and participating in community driven technology meetups/user groups/professional associations also take a tax on your personal time, but it’s a necessary evil.

    Do you take the time to make this type of investment? If so – where do you go? I ask once again: “What conferences or face to face activities do developers and architects in Canada attend in order to get training and keep up to date on what’s out there?” Drop me an email (jonathan.rozenblit@microsoft.com), tweet me a reply (@jrozenblit), chime in on Twtsurvey or LinkedIn, or comment below!

    I’ll make sure to post the replies back to share with all of you.

  • Dev Pulse

    Designing for Success (through User Experience)

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    Spin the MooseLast week, I was at Prairie Dev Con and had the pleasure of sitting in on David Alpert’s sessions on user experience called Design for Success. I found it fascinating that such an important part of an application never really gets the attention that it deserves, and most times, overlooked entirely. This is very bad, and David explains why in his talks.

    If you have a chance to see this talk live, I highly recommend it. David is a very dynamic, enthusiastic, and clearly passionate speaker, and so seeing these talks in PDF below doesn’t do it justice, but will give you insights into why User Experience is fundamental to the success of an application.

    Design for Success 101 - Why User Experience matters for your app

    Download Slides (PDF)

    Design for Success 101 – Why User Experience matters for your app

    As software developers, we love to solve problems. Too often, however, we start mapping out solutions using our favourite patterns and technologies before we fully understand the goal, or we focus on functional requirements and lose sight of the big picture. In this session we’ll cover the basics of what a User Experience approach brings to the table and how it can make a difference in the success of your application.

       
    Design for Success 102 - 7 ways to make your app more Learnable, Usable, & Enjoyable

    Download Slides (PDF)

    Design for Success 102 – 7 Ways to make your app more Learnable, Usable, & Enjoyable

    Why are some apps a pleasure to use while others a source of endless pain? In this follow-up to Designing for Success 101, we’ll focus on end-user interactions. Looking at several design patterns we’ll explore how to generate less frustration and more delight for our clients and their customers.

    Your Thoughts

    When you’re developing applications, how much attention to you pay to the user experience? How do you go about designing your application’s user experience? Share your thoughts in this Ignite Your Coding LinkedIn discussion.

    About David Alpert

    David Alpert is a Senior Software Developer, Front-End Engineer, Interaction Designer, experienced Business Analyst, and proven leader and mentor who wants to change the IT industry. With a BSc. Honors in Computer Science and over 15 years of development experience, David is a passionate visionary whose knowledge, skills, and communication style are focused towards identifying and removing friction in all aspects of application development and teambuilding.

    David is currently living in Winnipeg, Manitoba with his superhero wife and 5 amazing kids.

  • Dev Pulse

    Mobile Development at DevTeach

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    logo-deveach-Large

    There was a lot of buzz around mobile development at DevTeach Montreal a few weeks ago with an entire track dedicated to mobile development, 4 Windows Phone 7 sessions, and a post-conference full day event all about Windows Phone 7 with Colin Melia.

    As an added bonus, Carl Franklin (@carlfranklin) and Richard Campbell (@richcampbell) were on hand to host a special .NET Rocks! show – Panel of Mobile Platform Experts. On the panel were Kevin McNiesh, iPhone expert; Robert MacHale, Android expert; Michael Hutchinson, Mono expert; and Colin Melia, Windows Phone 7 expert. The experts sat down to talk about where mobile development is at, development processes, and fielded questions from the audience. 

    Now, you can relive the discussion here.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    In addition to this conversation, Colin had an opportunity to chat with Richard about the challenges of securing applications using the phone and the Cloud. The discussion dug hard into Active Directory Federated Services, Azure Access Control Services and more.

    Download the RunAs Radio Interview “Colin Melia Secures Azure and Windows Phone 7”

    Do you have any questions you’d like to ask Colin? Share your questions in this Phone Development LinkedIn discussion.

    About Colin Melia

    Colin Melia is a Microsoft Regional Director and Microsoft MVP for Silverlight known as an architect, trainer, speaker and author with deep and broad knowledge of the latest Microsoft technologies, proven problem solving skills, hands-on solution creation ingenuity and the ability to communicate rich and complex ideas.

    He speaks regularly with his British accent at conferences, events and code camps for Microsoft and community organisations as well as being a college academic advisor. In the summer of 2010 he developed and delivered the first Windows Phone 7 boot camp tour in North America, training dozens of developers and companies across Canada at Microsoft offices. His recent articles and reference cards have been featured on Mobile Developer Magazine & DZone and he regularly posts on his blog.

    Colin has 17 years of hands-on experience in areas of rich UI with WPF/Silverlight, cloud development with Azure and BI with SQL Server, along with in-depth knowledge of core technologies such as .NET, OData, WCF, WF, LINQ and WIF. He has developed award-winning simulation technology with rich UI, cloud-based learning portals and workflow-driven BI systems. He also created the first streaming video community site with Windows Media.

    He has worked in the finance, telecoms, e-learning, Internet communications and gaming industries, with his business solutions recently in use at major league companies world-wide.

  • Dev Pulse

    Colin Melia on SilverLight 5

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    There was much talk about Silverlight 5 during this year’s DevTeach in Montreal. Last week, Susan (@HockeyGeekGirl) posted her DevTeach conversation with Laurent Duveau (@LaurentDuveau) about how Silverlight 5 takes DataTemplate to the next level with implicit data templates.  Colin Melia was also talking about Silverlight 5 at DevTeach, with a demo during the conference keynote, and a session on Silverlight 5 features in the conference’s Silverlight track.

    At the conference, Colin got together with Carl Franklin (@carlfranklin) of .NET Rocks TV, and together, they bring us a sneak peek of Silverlight 5 as well as a handful of cool demos to show off some new features. Check out Show #198 of .NET Rocks TV!

    image

    Ready to give Silverlight 5 a try?

    Silverlight 5 beta is now available for download. You can find the download, as well as Silverlight 5 videos, MIX11 videos, and top tutorials here.

    About Colin Melia

    Colin MeliaColin Melia is a Microsoft Regional Director and Microsoft MVP for Silverlight known as an architect, trainer, speaker and author with deep and broad knowledge of the latest Microsoft technologies, proven problem solving skills, hands-on solution creation ingenuity and the ability to communicate rich and complex ideas. He speaks regularly with his British accent at conferences, events and code camps for Microsoft and community organisations as well as being a college academic advisor. Colin has 17 years of hands-on experience in areas of rich UI with WPF/Silverlight, cloud development with Azure and BI with SQL Server, along with in-depth knowledge of core technologies such as .NET, OData, WCF, WF, LINQ and WIF. He has developed award-winning simulation technology with rich UI, cloud-based learning portals and workflow-driven BI systems. He also created the first streaming video community site with Windows Media.

  • Dev Pulse

    Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide People’s Choice Award – Go Vote!

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    The Microsoft Imagine Cup brings together student developers from all over the world and asks them to use their creativity and passion for technology to help solve the world’s toughest problems. This year, more than 350,000 students from 183 countries and regions registered to compete and, from July 8-13, the finalists (more than 400 students from 70 countries) will meet for the Worldwide Finals in New York City.

    Head over to the Imagine Cup site, check out the projects, and see how student developers are using Microsoft technologies to truly change the world (perhaps you may even be inspired to go write an app or two of your own as a result!).

    Beginning today, people around the world will have the opportunity to get involved in the excitement through the Imagine Cup People’s Choice Award. Cast your vote on the People’s Choice Award site! Your colleagues, friends, and family can vote as well, so spread the word.

    Here are just a few examples of how the teams are using Microsoft technologies at Imagine Cup: 

    • Windows Phone 7 is the most commonly used technology creating solutions ranging from finding the nearest recycling center to helping disaster victims broadcast their location.
    • Head in the clouds: Teams in the Software Design track are using Windows Azure in their projects – whether it’s aggregating crowd-sourced data, overcoming geographical boundaries or integrating satellite data.
    • Students take the lead on new technologies: There are a few projects that feature Microsoft Kinect technology ranging from physical rehabilitation to educational engagement.
    • No need to ask for directions: Some teams have integrated Bing Maps into their solutions – ranging from showing malaria outbreak locations to helping with traffic management to helping cities become more accessible.

    To top that, there were quite a few teams that brought all of the above together, using Windows Azure, Windows Phone 7, AND Bing Maps with solutions ranging from finding carpools to predicting disasters due to water flow. 

    The People’s Choice Award is just one component of several competitions and prizes at the Imagine Cup. From creating apps and videos to building Web sites and embedded solutions, students are truly helping to change the world with Microsoft technologies.

    Vote for your favourite projects and support student developers as they grow and start companies that thrive to have an impact in their communities and around the globe.

  • Dev Pulse

    Kinect For Windows SDK BETA Now Available

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    960x200_EVENT

    It’s official! You can now start developing Windows applications that make use of Kinect! The live launch event is actually still on Channel 9 right now! Go check it out. If you’ve missed parts of the event (it started at 9:30 AM PST this morning), they’ll be available in the Channel 9 Live Events Area within 24 hours.

    Want to jump right in and start playing with the SDK? Here’s what you need:

    Last but not least, here are some cool examples of using Kinect for Windows:

    So? What do you think? Cool or what? Is your head spinning with app ideas where you can leverage Kinect? Share your thoughts in this LinkedIn Ignite Your Coding discussion. I look forward to seeing what cool things you all will come up with!

  • Dev Pulse

    JUST IN: Special Channel 9 Live Kinect Event!

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    If you were one of the 167 developers that were in Regina, SK these last couple of days for Prairie Dev Con (and if you weren’t, then make sure you are next year because it is just a great event! More on that at another time…), you would have heard Jeff Sandquist (@jeffsand), Senior Director for Channel 9, make mention of something happening this week during his keynote. He didn’t say what, he just said that it would be awesome!

    I can’t tell you what I don’t know, but here’s what I do know:

    • The “something happening this week” is a LIVE event.
    • The LIVE event is happening tomorrow, Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 9:30 AM PST (see local times).
    • It will be broadcasted on Channel 9 Live, recorded, and then offered on-demand in the Channel 9 Events Area within 24 hours.

    and last but not least, I can tell you it has something to do with…

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    So, hopefully, you are now just as curious as I was when I heard (and still am!), so make sure you check it out tomorrow! Then, come back here and share your thoughts!

  • Dev Pulse

    Next Generation ALM with Visual Studio vNext

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    Last month, during TechEd North America, we were introduced to some of the new features that were coming in the next version of Visual Studio, specifically in the area of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM). My colleague Susan Ibach (@HockeyGeekGirl) was at TechEd and blogged about some of those details. If you weren’t able to get out to TechEd and haven’t yet watched sessions on-demand that talk about Visual Studio vNext, you absolutely must.

    TechEd2011Keynote_220_ch9[1]

    Tech·Ed North America 2011 Keynote Address
    Jason Zander, Robert Wahbe

    If you fast forward to 1:01:15 in the video of the Keynote address, you can watch Jason Zander, Corporate VP, Visual Studio talk about what to expect from Visual Studio vNext.

       
    FDN03[1]

    The Future of Microsoft Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Management
    Cameron Skinner

    This demo-heavy session offers early insights into the future of Application Lifecycle Management and agile development that are incorporated in the next release of Visual Studio.

    And if those two sessions were not enough to get you excited, our friends at TechNet Edge captured some great conversations on the ground at TechEd, specifically, this conversation between Richard Campbell and Jason Zander about the upcoming ALM features. 

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    Jason Zander on ALM

    Jason Zander talks to Richard Campbell about Visual Studio v.Next, specifically the upcoming ALM features. Jason talks about the next generation of ALM and how it brings stakeholders, developers and IT Pros closer together with new tooling.

    Want to dive deeper and find out more? Download the Visual Studio vNext whitepaper. It’ll provide you with additional contexts and outlines of the problems that Visual Studio vNext is working to solve, how they relate to problems that are faced as an industry, and how Visual Studio vNext will improve the effectiveness of ALM.

    So what’s next? Stay tuned! As more information because available, we’ll make sure that you hear about it here. In the meantime, join me in this LinkedIn conversation around the features announced in these sessions, share your thoughts, and perhaps recommend a feature or two that you would like to see in Visual Studio vNext.

    This article is also featured on Canadian Developer Connection.

  • Dev Pulse

    Announcing the Code Your Art Out Finalists!

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    Back in March, Frédéric (@fharper) introduced Code Your Art Out, a “wicked” coding competition, as described on the competition’s home page. Between March 1st and June 1st, any kind of web app could be submitted. Over the last week, the apps were judged on their interoperability with different technologies, creativity, and usability, and now I can announce the finalists! But before I do, just a reminder of what’s at stake for these finalists:

    • The first place application will win $10,000.
    • The second place application will win $5,000.
    • And to top both off, if the application was made for a non-profit organization, a $5,000 bonus is tacked on!

    What did they have to do? The participants had to create any web solution and deploy it to either Windows Azure or IIS. Alternatively, they could port an existing web solution onto Windows Azure or IIS. That’s it. Everything else was left up to their creativity.

    So with that, drum roll please…

    On behalf of the Judges, we’d like to give a HUGE congratulations to the following finalists:

    • Epilogger created by a team of three hailing from Toronto, Ontario: @Cbrooker @MichaelNus and @rebheartsyou. Here’s a bit about their app:

      Rock out. We’ll remember for you. The event last night was awesome. Everyone was there! You rocked out, partied it up, celebrated, promoted, and networked. It’s the next day, week, or month and you want to see all the tweets, Facebook shares, check-ins, videos, stats, blog posts, and pics but, like so many, you just can’t find them all on the massive web or the content has disappeared with age! You just want to know what went down! Don’t you wish there was some way to get the whole story from all points of view? Epilogger is on the scene and we’ll remember for you! Epilogger is epilogue + blogger and is all about immortalizing all the hottest happenings in your city. We create a permanent time capsule of the event for you and your friends to enjoy for years to come. We’ll even arrange all your memories into a sweet scrapbook with analytics and content from everyone who took part whether they were at the event in person or in spirit!
    • Save the Rain created by Mark Laudon of Surrey, British Columbia. Here’s a bit about his application:

      Why Save the Rain? Rainwater harvesting is a way of saving the rainwater which would normally flow off a roof and down the drain, and using it as piped water to flush toilets and for the garden watering, yard wash down, vehicle and car washing, instead of using treated drinking (potable) water. In the case of the developing world, water use in agriculture consumes more than 75 percent of water. Demand for more food goes hand in hand with population increases. Water productivity will need to be raised to meet the demand for more food. Capturing and saving rainfall can help irrigate crops. The Save the Rain water productivity calculator utilizes open data sources to actually make a difference in the world. This creative app strives to deliver a tool for developing worlds and areas suffering from water shortage. This original app also provides an avenue to raise awareness of how high a value rain water can have in the production of crops/hunger resolution. The application is easy to use, and, requires no training. First type in an address, or use the map controls to zoom to a place (rooftop) anywhere on the planet. Secondly, start tracing the outline of the rooftop by clicking points at all corners of the rooftop. Then click the finished button. The app determines how much rain you receive in a year (http://www.worldclim.org) and calculates your rainfall savings potential.

    The competition was very tough, and deciding the top two was not easy, but it was a unanimous decision that Epilogger and Save The Rain shall battle it out for 1st and 2nd place on June 24th in downtown Toronto. The URLs for these apps will be shared after the 24th as well a recount of the finale event!

    Look out for them because they are impressive, easy to use, unique and all around wicked. Congratulations and thanks to all of the teams who submitted apps for the competition. Everyone did a great job and should be very proud!

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