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    Windows Phone 7 Resources

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    I’m working with a group at the Microsoft Silicon Valley Campus in Mountain View around learning the Windows Phone 7. As part of the preparation for the group, I searched the web and contacted my team to see what we could use. This is what I’ve come up with so far:

    Windows Phone for Developers
    The primary developer portal for Windows Phone 7
    Programming Windows Phone 7 Series
    The Programming Windows Phone 7 Series book from Charles Petzold is currently available in preview form in three parts. The first part goes over the hardware specifications of the phone and a Hello World application for the Phone. The second part covers Silverlight, and the third covers XNA.
    Learning Windows Phone Programming
    The Learning Windows Phone Programming book by Yochay Kiriaty & Jaime Rodriguez has two chapters available from their book. Chapter 2 introduces Silverlight in the context of the Windows Phone. Chapter 6 also covers Silverlight, but focuses specifically on the additional features available on the phone that aren't in Silverlight 3 specifically. It is split into five parts: User Interface, Security, Networking, Media, and any other run-time differences.
    Application Certification Requirements
    If you are considering developing a game or application for the Windows Phone marketplace, you'll want to read this document. It goes through the technical requirements and policies that must be adhered to in order to be included on the marketplace. One of the complaints I often hear about mobile development is that with a closed marketplace without transparent guidelines like this document, you are basically betting that your application will be accepted, and if you aren't, you are out the development time and resources. It's best to confirm that you meet the guidelines before you begin development.
    Application Platform Overview for Windows Phone
    The Application Platform Overview is a great starting point for getting to understand the Windows Phone. It also contains links to other articles on the MSDN documentation to gain more information on the specifics of the platform.
    Windows Phone UI Design and Interaction Guide
    The Windows Phone has a specifically designed and engineered User Interface, and the recommendation is to model your applications to match, making for a more unified experience requiring less context switching by the user. This document goes over the design and the recommendations for your application.
    Designing Web Sites for Phone Browsers
    What makes a good web site for a desktop browser does not necessarily make a good mobile web site. Whether you plan to simply apply style sheets for mobile browsers, or create a unique mobile site, this document will help to understand the best practices for the mobile web.
    Documentation for Windows Phone 7 at MSDN
    As you develop your game or application for the Windows Phone, you will likely need to look up implementation details for Windows Phone specific features like how the accelerometer was implemented. The documentation on MSDN is a great reference, and you will likely find yourself visiting this site often.

    If you run into other useful resources, please let me know, and I'll add them to the list.

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    Most Secure Browser: Internet Explorer 8?

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    IE8_logo

    I think it’s safe to say that I am more aware of security issues than most users out there. I don’t open unknown attachments, I don’t run scripts or executables unless I know what they are and where they came from, and I don’t install weird apps that mess with my system. So when visiting a site with Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP SP2 installed links directly into my start menu without so much as a dialog box asking me if it would be alright, I knew it was time for a better browser. I installed Firefox, and was happy with it for quite some time. I only ran a couple of add-ons, and didn’t use them much because I often switched machines, and they weren’t always configured the same, but I was happy with the speed and security I was getting.

    When Internet Explorer 7 came out, I tried it out, but mostly stuck with Firefox for my everyday surfing. When Internet Explorer 8 came out with it’s beta, I tried it out, and it actually piqued my interest. As far as the features I used in Firefox, everything was there. In addition, I tried out the accelerators, and especially liked the translation tool, which made it a lot easier to translate my wife’s blog. I also heard a lot about the standards support, and the increased security they had built in. I’ve been running IE8 as my main browser for quite some time now, and it’s great to see that it looks like I made the right choice.

    In a recent study, the security of the most popular browsers was tested by NSS Labs, focusing on the Mean Block Rate for Socially Engineered Malware, and Phishing. Internet Explorer 8 came out on top for both tests. Internet Explorer 8’s SmartScreen Filter has blocked over 80 million malware blocks, including the pre-release versions, and delivers a malware block for around 1 out of every 40 users, every week. Check out the links to see the details of the report.

    If you’ve been thinking about checking out Internet Explorer 8, a great place to start is the Internet Explorer 8 Online Challenge from Microsoft Singapore. It only takes five minutes to run through, and it gives a great overview of the new features built in to the latest version of the browser.

  • File → New Project

    Windows 7 Professional RTM – Free for students through MSDNAA

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    Starting today, students and faculty with access to the MSDN Academic Alliance will see a few new products available through their system. The most notable of these products in Windows 7 Professional edition, over two months before it’s available to the general public. I’ve been running Windows 7 since it was first made available in the public beta, and have been very impressed by it’s overall quality, including it’s speed and stability. I currently have four machines running Windows 7, my two work laptops, which are running the RTM Enterprise edition, and two netbooks, running the Release Candidate. I plan to pick up a copy of the RTM for my netbooks when general availability drops on October 22nd, but even the Release candidate is better than any Operating System I’ve run before (and yes, I have run multiple non-Windows OSes).

    Also up on the MSDN AA page is Expression Studio 3. This includes Blend, Design, Web, and Encoder, all of which contain huge improvements from the previous versions. It’s hard to believe that the entire product sweet has been around for less than two years, seeing the quality of the releases. Some things to take a look at inside of Expression Studio 3 are behaviors in Blend (building games in Silverlight just became a lot easier), and the screen recording tool in Encoder. Encoder also supports AVCHD natively now, though you have to have a licensed version to do so. There’s also a preset in there for encoding for the Zune HD, which I have been waiting for patiently since I first heard about it.

    If you don’t have access to MSDN AA, and you are a student or faculty member in a department that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, or Design, let me know. I should be able to hook you up with the people to make it happen. And if you have MSDN AA, but you don’t see Windows 7 or Expression Studio 3, check with your administrator, or drop me a comment,and we’ll get that fixed, too. Just imagine rolling up to a buddies house and showing him the Silverlight game you built on your Windows 7 laptop. You know you want this. Go make it happen.

  • File → New Project

    Xbox LIVE update

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    The next time you log in to Xbox LIVE, you’ll see a few new features. The first thing I tried out was the new Avatar Marketplace. You can buy branded items from games and fashion labels, but I’m not one for paying for virtual items, so I changed my glasses to look like my new pair, and moved on to the next feature.

    This is the one I’m most excited about: Games on Demand. This is where I’m hoping the console will end up going with all of their games. Ideally, there’d be no more worrying about fitting a game onto a single DVD, or scratched discs causing the game to fail an hour since your last save. Unfortunately, there weren’t any games in the store that I was interested in and don’t already own, but nonetheless, I’m paying attention.

    The last thing I am excited about in this latest update is the updates they did to the Netflix features. When Netflix was first added to Xbox LIVE, they discussed the ability to be able to watch movies along with a friend, but it hasn’t actually been possible until now. The other neat addition is the ability to edit your queue straight from the Xbox. Previously, I had to boot up my netbook to add a new movie, so this is a welcome addition.

    There are some other minor things like being able to rate games and some party invite stuff, but those are the ones I’m most interested in.

  • File → New Project

    Sketch Styles without SketchFlow

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    SketchStyles

    The new release of Expression Blend 3 comes with a great new feature called SketchFlow. SketchFlow allows you to rapidly create a prototype of your application that can be used to get buy-in from clients, and to get feedback on the design of the system without worrying on the details like which fonts you chose and the exact shade of blue your logo should be. One of the tools in the arsenal of SketchFlow is the Sketch Styles, formerly known as wiggly controls. The Sketch Styles give a real back of the napkin feel to your application, and really convey the idea of the fact that what you’re showing them is not complete. It helps to avoid those moments where you show your client your design, and get the response, “Looks great, let’s ship it.”

    When I first saw SketchFlow, I fell in love with the sketch styles. I wanted to use them in the Silverlight applications I was already working on, and had taken beyond the prototype stage. If you look in the User Guide inside of Blend, you can see an entry that shows you how to convert a SketchFlow application into a production project, but if you’re just interested in getting the Sketch Styles into your application, it is possible. For this example, I’ll be using a Silverlight application in the full version of Expression Blend 3. The process was a bit more difficult with the Release Candidate, but you should have upgraded by now anyway.

    The first step in getting Sketch Styles into your Silverlight application is to open a new Silverlight 3 SketchFlow Application, and the Silverlight 3 application you want to add the Sketch Styles to. If you don’t have an application you’re already working on, you can just start a new Silverlight 3 Application + Website.

    Prototype and Application 

    In the SketchFlow application, you’ll need to copy over the Fonts directory with the three fonts contained within, and the SketchStyles.xaml file. You’ll also need to add references to the Microsoft.Expression.Prototyping.SketchControls.dll and System.Windows.Controls.dll. By default they’ll be in your C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Expression\Blend 3\Prototyping\Libraries\Silverlight and C:\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Silverlight\v3.0\Libraries\Client directories, respectfully.

    Required Files and References

    Once you’ve got those over, you’re done! Have fun with your Sketch Style enabled Silverlight application.

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