A simple post today. The team here has done a lot of work encouraging, helping, incentivising and cajoling (?) students to write apps and submit them into MarketPlace. Grace and I (Phil Cross) have just called a few students to see how they were getting on and it was a great experience.
Nearly all the students had submitted their apps, they were all excited and enthused about their experience, some a little more than others
We’ll try and promote some of the apps when we can draw breath but I just wanted to highlight this one – cos we liked the solution and the design! Its not live yet but waiting for verification – well done Manfredas!
Students are awesome and the call-out really made me realise how much I enjoy my job.
Below, hear from Russell Hunt, a student at Staffordshire University, on his experiences of developing for Windows Phone, and what he learnt at the Staffordshire Windows Phone Camp:
I’ve been aware of Windows Phone (and the Mango update) since they were released, but have not had the time to devote to learning how to develop mobile applications for them until recently. I’m a final year student at Staffordshire University studying Web Development, and started a business last year with a fellow student from the course. App Haus, our business in Stafford, produces websites and mobile apps primarily for iPhone and Android.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve had clients ask for apps for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, but never Windows Phone – hence not devoting time to learning the SDK until now.
I was excited to hear that Microsoft would be coming to Staffordshire University to host a Phone Camp event, designed to instil our students with the knowledge and ethos of the Windows Phone platform, and the Metro design language behind it. Although I’d never looked into designing apps for WP before, I had used friends’ devices and come to admire the thought-out UI which places emphasis on surfacing information through great typography rather than searching for it among icons and gradients. We’d been academically introduced to Metro just last semester in a lecture on User Experience Design.
Students at the Phone Camp came from across the broad spectrum of web, multimedia and computing students at the university. The demand to attend was huge and doubling the original capacity still left a few students without a ticket. Some were there as part of their Mobile Multimedia and Gaming module to begin to implement the designs they’d already produced into a working app. My business partner, our employee, and I all attended with a view to evaluating whether we can offer clients Windows Phone apps in future.
I’d given myself a head start for the Phone Camp, having installed the tools and thought out my app a few days beforehand. I read the User Experience Design Guidelines, downloaded and investigated the Sample Projects, and found 31 Days of Windows Phone particularly helpful. Thanks to a selection of Windows Phones at our university, I had the opportunity to borrow a device to evaluate the look and feel of existing built-in and 3rd party apps.
The app I am developing, known currently as Local Chat, will show other users of the app who is nearby, and facilitate conversations between users. Before the Phone Camp, I was able to implement the main screen of the application, featuring a Pivot control between a Bing map, current conversations and settings. I learnt how to respect the user’s accent colour, and ensured this was used to highlight important information. I had a basic grasp of data binding and Converters too.
During the Phone Camp, I learnt some of the core functionality required in any app such as how to create more pages and link them together, how to attach event handlers to controls and how to customize the application icon displayed on the Start Screen.
Since Phone Camp, I’ve put my skills into action and have finished a large amount of the user interface. Currently, I’m writing the Node.js server that will power the application, then I’ll return to C# to hook up the application. Once it’s ready and polished, I’ll submit it to the Marketplace and consider adding new features I’ve thought of or that users suggest.
I’ve found the visual tools inside Visual Studio to be more than sufficient for me so far, but have seen other students really getting along with Expression Blend. Adobe Fireworks is my graphics editor of choice, having used it for years before Macromedia existed. My sketches for the app were a little less hi-tech, with pen and paper using Michael Bach’s template.
I’m not really a console gamer and definitely not a games developer, so while I can appreciate the look and feel of the Metro dashboard on a friend’s Xbox, I can’t see myself developing any games for it at present. I used my hybrid stylus-based Windows XP Tablet PC extensively in school, and enjoyed using the applications that were enhanced for tablets (OneNote, Crosswords, Hexic!). I use and develop for an Apple iPad and Android Galaxy Tab 10.1 at present, but certainly look forward to getting reacquainted with a Windows tablet.
With my final year at Staffordshire University coming to an end this spring, I look forward to returning full time to App Haus, developing mobile applications. Depending on how my experience with Windows Phone progresses, I hope to be able to either offer it as an additional platform in the business or perhaps to continue developing apps in my free time.
Keep your eyes on the Marketplace for my app, attend a Phone Camp at your university if you’ve not done so yet and comment below or get in touch if you've got any questions or comments.
I'm Richard Walters, currently a graduate student at the University of Oxford in the final stages of completing a PhD in Atomic and Laser Physics. Over the past six months, in my spare time, I have been developing for Windows Phone, and I am very excited to say that my first app, Calculator², has recently been published in the Marketplace! As someone with no prior experience in developing software for any platform, I have immensely enjoyed building the app, more so than I would have imagined when I started out. I hope with this blog post I can show how easy it is as a student to download the free tools, access the learning resources, and take the plunge into Windows Phone development.
So what started me on the road to building Calculator²? When I upgraded to a Samsung Omnia 7. Having never owned a smartphone before, and being a physics student, the first app I searched for was a scientific calculator. I wasn’t very impressed with the apps on offer, so just chose a free one that worked well enough and then downloaded Angry Birds. A few weeks later, I was searching the internet looking for student deals from Microsoft on upgrading to Windows 8, when I stumbled across DreamSpark. I was surprised to find that I could download Visual Studio Professional and also register as a developer for Windows Phone, all for free! Since I now owned a Windows Phone (although not required) I thought I‘d give it a try and see how easy it was to build an app.
To get going, I downloaded Bob Tabor’s introductory videos from Channel 9, and decided that a simple calculator would be a great first app for learning both C# and the Software Development Kit. If I could get a basic version working then I would prove to myself that Windows Phone apps were well within my ability. I'll admit that I’m not a novice coder; I develop Matlab programs in my research for simulating systems of cold atoms (see here for the research taking place in our department), and have learnt C in the Oxford Physics undergraduate course. However, coding for scientific work is quite different from that needed to build software, so I had a lot to learn. Luckily, there’s a vast amount of information available on the internet to help. Everything in the .NET Framework is fully documented with examples at msdn.microsoft.com. There are also code samples and other learning resources specifically targeted at Windows Phone development on MSDN. However, perhaps the most useful tools were the forums both within App Hub and at stackoverflow.com. Whenever I came across a problem, these were usually the top hits in a search engine, and I was always able to find the help I needed. There’s a great community of experienced developers out there who are happy to help others, and typically the problems I had were exactly those that people before me had encountered also, so the solutions weren't too hard to find.
A few weeks after I started out I already had a basic, working calculator. I was soon having all sorts of ideas on how I could improve on the other scientific calculator apps, and go far beyond what is possible on real hardware. I got a huge buzz out of turning these ideas into reality and wondering what others would make of them. Now that a completed version has been published, it's very satisfying to think that my app could be used all over the World by all sorts of people doing calculations for all sorts of things. Of course, I don't want to stop now! I already have more features I'd like to add to the app (a graphical calculator for starters!) If you'd like to try my app and see what is possible, please click on Calculator² or alternatively search for 'Scientific Calculator' in the Marketplace (it's a currency, unit and base converter too!).
I would highly recommend Windows Phone development to any student, whether they be a novice – for whom the introductory video series I mentioned looks excellent – or someone more experienced. I think it's fantastic that Microsoft provide the required resources for free, and it’s something that more students should take advantage of. Ultimately, I now have an app in the Marketplace that could earn a fair amount of money, I have a great addition to my CV, and I've learnt a lot of useful techniques that I've now incorporated into my own work. Most of all, I've had a lot of fun along the way!
We’d love to know the value DreamSpark gives you so we can continue to deliver it for free – help us help the next generation of students.
We are inviting students to complete a short survey to help us better understand how the DreamSpark programme is supporting your skills development, learning outcomes and career potential. We would like to understand what range of applications and tools have been of use to you, how often you use them and how effective they have been in supporting your skills development. Most importantly, we would like to understand how effective access to DreamSpark has been in supporting your coursework and test/exam results. You also have a chance to let us know about any particularly positive or negative experiences you have had so we can ensure that in the future we are delivering an even better service.
We are only looking for a few minutes of your time and all responses remain anonymous. Just to give you a little more of an incentive to help us gather this data we are offering one lucky student an Xbox360. Just click here to complete the online questionnaire. Thanks!
Come one come all - submissions to the Windows Store are now open to all developers! And guess what? For students, that access comes at no cost. Just like the Windows Phone Marketplace, you can submit free and paid for apps as a student without having to buy a developer registration, and get all the other benefits around in app purchasing and advertising right out of the box. Ok, so it doesn't come in a box. But you know what we mean.
On top of this 'big announcement' we’re also announcing a number of additional subscription program offerings that recognize and thank developers for their interest and commitment to Windows. All eligible MSDN subscribers receive a free, one-year Windows Store developer account as part of their MSDN benefits. (Eligible subscriptions include Visual Studio Professional, Test Professional, Premium, Ultimate, and BizSpark.). So even if you're getting ready to leave education and start your own business, or go work in the technology industry, you're covered.
Throughout the Windows Store preview stages, we’ve seen fantastic interest from individual developers, large development houses and component and service providers. And as we’ve opened up new markets for on boarding and expanded our invitations, we’ve seen a great increase in both the number and diversity of apps—all during our preview milestones, before broad availability of the OS and before even the first production Windows 8 PC is in the market. And the Windows 8 PCs are on the way, with many unveiled recently at IFA.
If you’ve already signed up—fantastic. We’re ready for your app. Haven’t signed up yet? Getting started is easy—just go to www.dreamspark.com and click the 'Register on the Windows Store' link. Keep using your DreamSpark credentials the whole way through and you'll be fine. You do need to provide debit or credit card details but rest assured - you won't be charged and once you've put them in you'll notice the balance due update to £0. Not got access to DreamSpark? Drop firstname.lastname@example.org an email and we can help.
The dev tools are free, the SDK is ready, and we have a ton of great supporting content to help you build your app and submit it for Store certification. Sign up now, reserve your app names—we look forward to seeing your app in the Store in time for the general availability of Windows 8!
Students can get a free Xbox Live Indie Games Portal registration if they verify their Student status via DreamSpark. However, we have received reports of students having difficulty registering for free. The reason is due to the fact that there is a pre-requisite, for the free student registration to complete successfully: students need to go to Xbox.com, create a Xbox Live account first and submit their billing information.
If this step is not carried out first, users will get an error message which isn’t very clear, about going to Xbox Live to create an account, but when they return to the Xbox Live Indie Games portal, they need to restart the registration process (i.e. they are not recognised, the user info is not persisted). As a result, the student can get confused and often do not complete the registration successfully. Unfortunately, we in the DreamSpark team, weren't briefed on it when we did the integration.
We have also been informed that if you previously had an App Hub account and sign in with the same email address of that account, there is no way for a student to renew without paying. This means that we need to let students, who had an old App Hub account, know that they need to register again, to create an new account using a brand new Microsoft Account.
This could affect all DreamSpark verified students trying to complete the Xbox Live Indie Game Portal registration. This also affects those students that do not necessary want to post a game to the app store but need to create an account to be able to connect XNA to an Xbox console and deploy their games for testing. This can be a blocking scenarios for educators and students learning and teaching game development on the Xbox via the console.
We have created a detailed document that covers the steps students need to follow for a successful registration. We are also in the process of updating the Indie Games Development Page on DreamSpark.com.
Vivek Doraiswamy and Riham Satti are students from Oxford University and the Co-Founders of Swapplr, a swapping and trading site for students using the latest Microsoft technology to help the student community and marketplace.
“Take the TV! I don’t need it”. There it was. Eureka, a gap in the market. Vivek’s friend was just about to graduate from the University of Oxford and he couldn’t take his TV with him. Not a big deal, right? For us it was the start of Swapplr. It was a flat screen TV costing over £200 and he was selling it for £50!! Was it broken? No. Did it have a missing piece? No. Was it in perfect condition? Yes. Till this day forward we thank that flat screen TV. Literally. Every year each student spends £1500 on living expenses (excluding food and rent) and when they graduate from University they no longer need these things - but at the same time new incoming students require those exact same goods. That’s the theory behind Swapplr. When we started we thought. ‘why don’t we let people swap goods?’ But it quickly grew to a swapping and trading site for students.
Swapplr only allows students with a legitimate University e-mails to sign up to ensure that we restrict the service only for students (no Hotmail allowed, sorry Microsoft). Validating the University students e-mail’s turned out to be the biggest problem we ever faced. Why? Universities are very strict with their email filtering. Solution? Azure’s integration with third party applications such as ‘SendGrid’ made our lives so much easier as we had an amazing monitoring tool not just for the Windows Azure Services but also for their third party add-ons.
The Windows Azure storage plan was so fast and cheap that we even hosted our database in SQL Azure and media files in Windows Azure Storage. Vivek being a developer for Swapplr, it felt like he was given this magical wand in a button form called “Publish” that HOSTED THE ENTIRE PLATFORM in one click (API, Storage, Database & Website). Another problem with most data driven applications is the scaling. With azure we could rest in peace as we started of our development on the ‘free website’ and during our beta testing shifted to ‘shared’, and in the future we can move it to ‘reserved’. It is exactly the same with the SQL Azure Databases, the webedition is free and again in future we can move it to “business” Mode.
These days notification is one of the key aspects, and even that is made possible with just THREE lines of code using the Windows Azure Service Bus. Now that we got the entire cloud platform operational we focused on the new Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 devices, using the same Visual Studio and Visual C# as the site. It felt like we were already months ahead. Both the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps use live tiles bringing the app to life. The best part it’s not just animated tiles, but tiles with a live feed from the server. Visual Studio is built in with the Simulator for the Windows 8 and Windows Phone. They're loaded with the real operating system and hence testing the development on those are the same as testing it on the devices. Perfect for us coders. Both the Windows 8 and Phone 8 apps use XAML for the front end and C# for the back end. Porting really was as simple as Copy/Paste. The Windows RT, Windows Phone 7.5 and 8 devices support HTTP Client and JSon.Net; heaven for Data driven applications like Swapplr.
Swapplr was accepted to AppCampus and AppCademy in February 2013. AppCampus is an €18 million joint project of Aalto University, Microsoft and Nokia. In addition to this Swapplr was National Finalist at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2013. Imagine Cup is an annual competition sponsored by Microsoft that aims to identify and support promising student start-ups. Microsoft's Imagine Cup 2013 was a memorable experience for Team Swapplr. Imagine Cup, AppCampus and AppCademy are a big success. We’re extremely excited about Swapplr’s progress – it’s available for Oxfordshire University students and is coming to a city near you!
Hi, I’m Grace Gimson, new to the Academic team, and have completed my first month as an intern here at Microsoft! I’ve got a year of marketing, events and projects to look forward to here but before I talk too much about me, I want to fill you in on what some of the more technical interns have been up to! If you’re considering applying for an internship with Microsoft, or are just interested on what interns get involved with then have a read!
The following interviews were conducted with interns from both the Reading and London offices, and they’re from a variety of departments:
Alex Olivier (Global Technical Support Centre):
Development Support Engineer – Internet
I support our customers on their development projects, focusing on Internet technologies including IIS, ASP.NET, Silverlight, and pretty much anything else that touches the internet.
What have you got involved with so far?
What are you looking forward to?
I am going to be involved with the Intern and MACH blog, I have a WP7 App project in the pipeline, I’ve got a day out with my team soon (Off-roading I think(?)….and lunch, I usually look forward to lunch.
Abbie Holland (STCE – Search Technology Centre):
SDET (Software Development Engineer in Test) – This mostly involves developing internal applications used to test and improve Bing.
What have you been involved with so far?
I’m really looking forward to playing a role in the outreach team for Young Britain Works, the project is a fantastic idea for a great cause, and I’d love to see us pull some successful results from it this year. I’m also looking forward to seeing Bing continue to grow, and of course eagerly trying to convince my boss what a good idea it would be to take me to the US sometime this year!
Bethan Kelly, (EMEA CRM Support Team, Global Technical Support Centre (GTSC):
(Microsoft Dynamics) CRM Support Engineer.
(Hopefully) Milk Round Graduate Team (Involves campus visits to careers fairs and events) and Dynamics Working Week (Meeting the EMEA team face to face).
Simon Frost (UK Messaging Developer Team, Global Technical Support Centre (GTSC):
Developer Support Engineer – I help developers outside Microsoft who are developing applications that work with our messaging technologies to solve their development issues / queries.
“Auditioning” for the highly popular campus milk round 101 positions (Campus tours), developing a departmental Windows Phone 7 App and attempting to learn absolutely everything I can while I am here!
Fav Mohammed (Dynamics AX):
I work in Dynamics AX as a SP (Support Professional) and communicate with partners to solve faults, crashes, bugs and general problems with the product. Dynamics AX is an ERP software (Enterprise Resource Planning) and uses a multitude of different Microsoft products to work.
I have applied for the 101 milk round campus team, sounds really fun! I’ve been a part of the Microsoft cricket team and I couldn’t live without cheesecake Thursdays…I’m hoping to petition for ice cream Fridays or something! Overall I look forward to helping big partners with issues, and to further improve my knowledge through Microsoft exams!
Neil Palmer (Strategy and Planning, Field IT):
Role involves supporting the management of the department by providing stats on how the department is using its time and resources (technically a techie role, but it is quite business-y).
As my role isn’t so technical it will be great to get stuck into some code and learn to use new and exciting technologies such as SQL Azure! Also this is a great opportunity to work on projects with other interns from different business areas. Looking forward to Silverlight development, I’ve never used Silverlight before so it will be great to learn a new skill as well as develop cool software for my department.
All of the interns I’ve spoken to are really enjoying getting stuck in to their roles and having so many new opportunities open to them. Look out for a coming post on what some more interns across the business have been up to, from marketing to business analyst positions!
We like to make a personal connection with you all (we try as much as we can) so in that spirit please meet our latest team member. Rather than me waffle on I’ll let Joanna introduce herself in her own words – please say hello if you connect with her online or if you meet her in person.
Hi everyone, my name's Joanna Tong and I have just joined the Academic Team at Microsoft alongside Ben Nunney, who I’m sure you’re very familiar with, and all of the other wonderful people who help to run the Microsoft UK Student, Faculty and Emerging Business programmes.
Like Ben I’ll be working as an Academic Developer Evangelist which means that I'll have the incredible job of evangelising Microsoft technology within the student community, telling you about all the cool stuff we’re doing, the amazing stuff that Microsoft technology enables you to do, and essentially being one of your points of contact should you need any help, advice or just a general bit of chat.
I am really excited to meet new people, and I imagine I will be meeting many of you in the upcoming months in many of the events that we’re holding and helping out at amongst the student community.
I studied at UCL for an MEng degree in Computer Science, meaning I have a pretty intense passion for technology, which I’m sure you share. As a graduate entry into the MACH program at Microsoft I have a lot to learn which is fantastic as I have a great support system in both my team and the company as a whole. This is why if any of you are considering a career or an internship, I’d strongly urge you to apply to Microsoft and see where the journey takes you. If that’s not on your agenda but you still want to do some innovative things with technology, Microsoft caters for that too. There’s DreamSpark for you eager developers and once you’ve gotten into the swing of things there’s the opportunity to get your technology out into the public eye, particularly through the Windows Phone medium, where it is so easy to publish your apps onto the Marketplace.
In my spare time I like to cook (and eat), read up on some financial news and watch a cheesy show or two. If any of you share these sentiments don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @joannatonguk (it might be pretty empty right now but I promise I’ll populate it with needless tweets in next to no time).
I’m really looking forward to meeting so many of you soon and I hope that I can, with the help of my team equip you with the tools and skills to become the developers of the future.
I know this is a Microsoft Students blog but it is actually written by real people – in this case me, Phil Cross, so when I saw this from Eileen Brown I thought – ah well its holiday season…..
Honda has an amusing little app on Facebook. Its called the naughty-or-nice–a-tron and it goes through your Facebook status updates and comments to find out how many naughty or nice things you’ve said during the year. It does take a short while to run depending on the amount of activity….
Looks like I am OK and I would imagine most people would be NICE but hey – let us know if you are not