January, 2013


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    So, do you know how big Visual Studio is?



    Well there is Visual Studio IDE, then there is Team Foundation Server and Office integration and… well you get the picture.



    Yes its a vast set of products which as academics and students you get for FREE via DreamSpark http://www.dreamspark.com

    Continuous Improvement

    Additionally we have now adopted a continuous delivery schedule of both the Visual Studio IDE and Team Foundation Server to continuous delivery with a 3 monthly cadence. Yes, that means that you should now be upgrading your Team Foundation Server every Quarter and that your developers should be updating their client. Before you all shout yes we know this is issue for managed desktop estates so… You know what… they don’t have to upgrade huge services packs in addition to windows updates, VS updates are now a “patch” that just updates your install.

    With the move to continuous improvement and service delivery comes many problems that need solving. Like any continuous service improvement programme these may create new problem but rather than fix them, and like real world examples these raise a number of important learning issues which are vital for the modern IT professional and developer to understand and work out benefits vs risks.

    For example students should be continually asking the following questions in relations to their exercises and assignments.

    1. How to deploy with minimal production impact?
    2. How to update the database without hours of down time?
    3. How to update different components of our application on different cadences?
    4. What if I update one and not the other?

    If you solve these problems not only will you be able to deliver more frequently, but what you will deliver will be in smaller chucks and therefore at a significantly lower risk. Not only that, in solving your deployment problems and essentially continuously practicing them you minimise the risk of delivering to production any significant issues or problems. The result is happy consumers…

    So what has Microsoft doing about this

    Just 3 months after RTM and barely 6 weeks after the Visual Studio 2012 launch the first quarterly update, Visual Studio 2012 Update 1, became available and planning for Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 started.With the launch of Visual Studio Team Foundation Service the Team Foundation Server team, arguably responsible for the most complex component of Visual Studio are delivering even more frequently.

    The summary is:

    • Team Foundation Service updates every 3 weeks
    • Visual Studio Client updates quarterly

    They are effectively on a 3 week Sprint cycle and are delivering new features to production every three weeks as well as hotfixes every Monday if needed. So for more keep an eye on Brian Harry Blog site see http://blogs.msdn.com/b/bharry

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    FallFury is an open source C++/DirectX 11.1 2D game for Windows 8.


    Coding4Fun FallFury

    The Awesome team of

    From Channel9.msdn.com have released FallFury open sourced C++/DX 2D Game for Windows 8

    You are playing as a bear that falls down from the sky, collecting buttons, avoiding obstacles and fighting monsters.

    This project demonstrates the capabilities of Windows Store hybrid applications, leveraging both the power of DirectX and XAML. It also supports an extensible level model, where developers can adjust the character behavior and the item sets by modifying specially designed XML files.

    Download Source - http://fallfury.codeplex.com/


    So if your interested in building a C++/DX game then here a 12 step tutorial of FallFury

    1. Introduction
    2. Shaders
    3. Basic Rendering and Movement
    4. XAML Interop
    5. Creating Levels
    6. Rendering Level Elements
    7. Animations
    8. Element Interactions
    9. Particle System
    10. Charms
    11. Hardware Testing & Debugging
    12. Conclusions
  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    TypeScript and Windows 8 Applications



    Huge thanks to Chris Sells, Developer Tools at Telerik who has produced some excellent Windows 8 TypeScript Templates

    To get started using these Windows 8 Visual Studio 2012 TypeScript templates you will  first need to install the TypeScript plug-in for Visual Studio 2012. Currently these templates have been tested under TypeScript only and the generated .jsproj files have this path hard-coded in.

    Chris has produced an excellent comprehensive blog at http://www.sellsbrothers.com/Posts/Details/12724

    You can download the Windows 8 TypeScript samples from here, extract the three folders (blankts, blankfixedts and navts) into your VS2012 JavaScript project template folder.

    e.g. C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 11.0\Common7\IDE\ProjectTemplates\JavaScript\Windows Store\1033.

    Once the files are there, shutdown all instances of Visual Studio 2012 and execute “devenv.exe /InstallVSTemplates” as admin. If you have multiple copies of Visual Studio installed, make sure you’re executing the one for VS2012.

    Once you’ve completed those steps successfully, you should see three new TypeScript-based templates as shown in the very first figure of his blog post.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Using Construct2 to build a HTML5 Window 8 Game


    scirra-logo-01     WinPhone8 html5 Win8_logo

    Using Construct 2 to build an awesome Windows 8 HTML5 game.

    Construct2 is a superb application for building HTML5 games, you can download the Free edition and get going with the Beginner's guide to get started on building great games in a very short time period also I have produced a really nice framework for curricula adoption see http://blogs.msdn.com/b/uk_faculty_connection/archive/2012/10/15/learning-to-build-a-html5-windows-8-game-in-15-lessons.aspx 


    You will need Windows 8. You then need to install Visual Studio 2012 Express on Windows 8 if you have a DreamSpark account then you can install any version of Visual Studio 2012. You will also need to ensure you setup a FREE windows 8 and Windows Phone developer account via DreamSpark see https://www.dreamspark.com/Student/Windows-Store-Access.aspx

    You'll need to add touch controls. See this tutorial on touch controls for help on that. Different devices have different size screens. See supporting multiple screen sizes. You can add the Windows 8 object to your project to take integrate with Windows 8 specific features like snap and roaming storage.
    Exporting from Construct 2

    First, ensure your project has the right Name, Description and Author properties set, since these will be used in the exported app.
    In the Export Project dialog, choose Export for Windows 8 and follow the next steps as you would for exporting an ordinary project.
    In the export directory you will find a Visual Studio project.

    Note there are three image files for the app icons, app-logo.png, app-smalllogo.png and app-storelogo.png. You should replace these with your own images but keep them exactly the same dimensions. The main project file has the extension .sln (solution). Double-click it in Windows 8 and Visual Studio should open it.

    Testing from Visual Studio

    If you've not used Visual Studio before, it's a complex and sophisticated tool for application development. However, you only need to use a small number of commands to configure and test your app. Find the "Solution Explorer" bar which lists all the files in the project.
    The solution explorer.

    Double-click package.appxmanifest. This file contains all the settings for your app. There is one thing you need to set up because Construct 2 can't export it for you, which is the publisher certificate for your app. Click the Packaging tab, which probably has a red X by it because the certificate is not set.
    The app manifest.
    Now click Choose Certificate.... In the dialog that opens, click the dropdown and select Create test certificate....
    Choosing a certificate.

    A dialog appears with your Publisher ID and a password entry. Don't enter a password - leave it blank and hit OK. Click OK on the Choose Certificate dialog as well, and you should now have a certificate set.

    If you've done this correctly the red X should have disappeared too.

    Test certificates only allow you to test your app. When publishing to the Windows 8 App Store, you'll need a different certificate to publish your app.
    Now you can launch your app by pressing F5. Visual Studio will build it and launch it as a Windows 8 app, which uses the Internet Explorer 10 browsing engine. This allows you to test everything is working in the new browser and OS. You can also try tweaking the settings in package.appxmanifest, which include options like orientation lock and other tile images.

    To submit to the Windows 8 App Store, start following the steps from this URL: https://appdev.microsoft.com/StorePortals/ You might also be interested in exporting to Windows Phone 8 as well (which must be done separately).

    For more details on Construct2 and Windows 8 see http://www.scirra.com/
  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    TypeScript and real life examples



    Over the Christmas break I had a few emails asking me about TypeScript http://www.typescriptlang.org/ the JavaScript extension invented by Anders Hejlsberg.

    So what is TypeScript?

    1. TypeScript is a language for application-scale JavaScript development.
    2. TypeScript is a typed superset of JavaScript that compiles to plain JavaScript.
    3. TypeScript supports Any browser. Any host. Any OS. Open Source

    So where is TypeScript being used?

    Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2012

    The TFS team made the decision to convert all of our JavaScript to Typescript. TFS had over 150,000 lines of JavaScript.

    The approach... more details at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/bharry/archive/2012/10/24/typescript-a-real-world-story-of-adoption-in-tfs.aspx

    As we looked at how to approach the effort of migrating our code, we talked to a few other team at Microsoft who had adopted Typescript before us.  One was Erich Gamma's team.  Erich estimated that manual conversion, to get fully annoted Typescript, one class/function/line at a time could be done at a rate of 300 or so lines per hour.  Of course, all valid JavaScript is valid Typescript so you can just change the file extension and be compiling it but if you want all the benefits you will want to take advantage of some type annotations and that's the manual part.  80,000 lines, at 300 lines per hour was a daunting proposition.  So we decided to invest in a tool to help with the process.  Thankfully, we had been pretty rigorous in our approach.  We used Javadoc fairly consistently to document our APIs.  We used consistent patterns for our classes and modules, etc.

    All told, it took us (1 dev) less than a week to write a tool (in Typescript, of course, :)) that would recognize Javadoc and the rest of our patterns and convert them to the corresponding Typescript constructs.  It took about another week to run the tool, tweak our Javadoc comments (like filling in some that had been missed), update our build process, test the conversion, etc.  Of course there's more we can do with Typescript.  For instance, we didn't have any previous recognizable pattern for interface contracts - so there was nothing for the tool to use to generate the Typescript constructs.  Over time, we'll be going through by hand, as we have reason to revisit modules and further tightening up the Typescript.  I expect we'll find more issues that we don't know about now.

    Overall, we've been super happy with the result.  We feel like we're going to be more productive with better tooling experiences like Intellisense, the code will be better structured, more maintainable and ultimately higher quality.  It's been a very good experience and if you've got a sizeable JavaScript codebase.



    If you've not met TouchDevelop before it provides a drag-and-drop scripting environment which, it has now been revealed, has been developed in TypeScript.

    The Web App has some amazing features,  including code synthesis and trace+ replay and its a great tools for inspiring school children and beginners to programming. see http://blogs.msdn.com/b/uk_faculty_connection/archive/2012/12/13/touchdevelop-making-apps-for-mobile-devices-on-mobile-devices.aspx

    Although TouchDevelop was designed for devices, specifically Windows Phone 7, with touchscreens, it can also be used with a keyboard or a mouse and so the browser-based version probably is an improvement in terms of productivity. It also provides the "work everywhere" element that allows for collaboration; as all the TouchDevelop client apps use the touchdevelop.com cloud service, all of your scripts will get synchronized between all platforms and devices and you only need to log in with the same credentials to access them. TouchDevelop Web App loads automatically on TouchDevelop.com  and, having logged in with your Windows Live, Google or Facebook credentials, you find yourself in the Hub, where can view tutorial videos, visit the showcase to see apps already developed or just get on with creating your own apps in a highly intuitive environment. And once you have created an app you want to publish there are buttons to create a Windows Store app and to create a Windows Phone app.

    TypeScript and the opportunity

    So with these two great examples I encourage you to give it a try.  You may be surprised at the bugs you find in your JavaScript code even if you've worked hard already to make sure there aren't any.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Phone NFC training from Nokia Developer Programme



    Near Field Communication (NFC) is an emerging short-range radio technology that is poised to revolutionise how we use mobile phones in everyday interactions.

    Nokia are hosting a great webinar. Where they will introduce the basics of NFC and how the technology is implemented in Nokia Lumia phones.

    They will also demonstrate how you can use NFC via Microsoft Windows Phone 8’s Proximity API in your applications to share content, read data from and write data to NFC tags, and create your own application launch tags.

    You will need to install the Microsoft Windows Phone SDK 8.0 in advance to get the most out of this training lab. You’ll learn more if you have the SDK installed and can begin using the API as soon as you complete the training. Also, it will be helpful to have a Nokia Lumia phone built on Windows Phone 8 available for testing.


    Lumia App Lab: Develop NFC apps in Windows Phone 8

    Wednesday, January 30, 2013 8:00:00 AM GMT - 8:45:00 AM GMT

    Learn about NFC technology and how to use Microsoft Windows Phone 8’s Proximity API in your apps for Nokia Lumia phones to share content, read data from and write data to NFC tags, and create your own application launch tags.

    Click Here to Register


    Lumia App Lab: Develop NFC apps in Windows Phone 8

    Thursday, January 31, 2013 4:00:00 PM GMT - 4:45:00 PM GMT

    Learn about NFC technology and how to use Microsoft Windows Phone 8’s Proximity API in your apps for Nokia Lumia phones to share content, read data from and write data to NFC tags, and create your own application launch tags.

    Click Here to Register




  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Try F# enables users to learn F# through new tutorials that focus on solving real-world problems



    This week I had a interesting email from an academic interested in exploring F# for functional programming. F# for those who aren't aware has a number of opportunities in academic teaching, learning and research including analytical programming  the sort that are encountered in finance and data science.


    Microsoft Research have recently announced a web based IDE entitled Try F#. Try F# is much more than a set of tutorials its actually a web based IDE which lets users write code in the browser and share it with others on the web to help grow a community of F# developers.


    Very similar to Microsoft Touchdevelop at www.touchdevelop.com this latest release of Try F# is an evolution that keeps the tool in synch with the new experiences and information-rich programming features that are available in F# 3.0, the latest version of the language. The tutorials incorporate many domains, and help users understand F#’s new powerful “type providers” for data and service programming in the browser-based experience.

    The following video includes some recent work by University College London.

    Give it a try today!

    Try F# now includes “create and share” experiences that help you write simple code to solve complex problems and then easily share snippets or sample packs with others.

    F# communities make it easy to get involved:

    Why F# in Education

    Simple Code for Complex Problems - F# is expressive and concise, which allows developers to implement their algorithms more directly. This means less code to read and maintain.

    Rapid Prototyping- Using F# Interactive, code can be executed immediately without first compiling, which enables fluid problem exploration. Developers can use F# Interactive to iteratively refine algorithms to production quality.

    Fewer Bugs-  Case studies and user reports consistently show that F#'s strong type system reduces software bugs. Units of Measure further increase these benefits by preventing code from accidentally combining such elements as inches and centimeters, dollars and euros, or any custom units.

    Seamless Interoperability  - F# interoperates seamlessly with C#, and F# can be used with HTML5, JavaScript and other web standards. F# type providers can be used to integrate data sources and thousands of statistical libraries from packages such as R. The NuGet package environment provides over 8,000 new packages. Enterprises can use F# effectively without having to use different libraries and frameworks, and can leverage their existing assets and domain knowledge.

    Efficient Execution- F# features modern, high-performance just-in-time (JIT) compilation to native code. F# code runs unchanged on both 32-bit and 64-bit systems by using the instructions available on the target architecture. The resulting code runs at the speeds much faster than languages such as Python, JavaScript or R, and in some cases significantly faster than C#.

    Reduced Complexity- F# makes it easier to write functional programs, which eliminates complex time and state dependencies. This helps prevent bugs, makes unit testing more straightforward, simplifies refactoring, and promotes code reuse.


    If your interested in learning more about F# in academia please contact Kenji Takeda at Microsoft Research Connections

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 Developer and App publishing tips


    WinPhone8 Windows Phone

    Tips for updating existing Windows Phone 7 apps in the Windows Phone MarketPlace for Windows Phone 8 users.

    As a developer you can update both your Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 apps in the Microsoft Dev Center and republish any amendments or changes. I have had a few questions about with path in Dev Center should I follow to ensure both my apps are updated accurately.

    The Microsoft Dev Center supports multiple XAPs for any app.

    Therefore as a developer you can choose to have a single XAP (typically targeting Windows Phone 7) or have two XAPs (one for Windows Phone 7 and one for Windows Phone 8) by doing this the app has a single GUID, and has a optimised experience for each platform.

    What happens if I build a new version of my existing Windows Phone 7 app in the new Windows Phone 8 SDK?

    If you have updated an existing XAP with a new Windows Phone 8 XAP, you potentially risk eliminating the Windows Phone 7 version.

    To mitigate any issues take one of the following steps.

    1. To Keep a single XAP which works on Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7

    Recompile the Windows Phone 7 app with the new Windows Phone 8 SDK and update the XAP file. NB. This is ideal scenario if your app doesn't require use of any of the Windows Phone APIs. However if your app takes advanatage of the Windows Phone 8 APIs please use option 2 below.

    2. To enable two versions of your app. One for Windows Phone 8 and one for Windows Phone 7

    You will need to create the new Windows Phone 8 version and utilise the new APIs and then add this new Phones 8 XAP to the Dev Center.

    To Add your app to the Dev Center

    1. Login to the Dev Center https://dev.windowsphone.com/en-us

    2. Select ‘add new’

    3. Upload your new Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 XAP (ensure version number is higher on the Windows Phone 8 XAP than your existing or new Windows Phone 7 XAP)

    4. Add meta data (NB. Please ensure the country list and language support selected is identical on both XAPs, if these do not match your app will NOT Appear in search Windows Phone now has 191 new markets so developers need to ensure they cross submit to take advantage of these new markets and consumers.

    5. Click Submit

    6. Your new apps will then be tested and published if they pass all necessary checks.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows 8 Resources


    Store Win8_logo

    This key is a collection of resources for web developers looking to get started with Windows 8 application development using HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

    You can also download a free ebook by Kraig Brockschmidt for web developers creating Windows Store applications.

    The links below will provide you with additional help in getting started

    Getting started as a developer - dev.windows.com

    dev.windows.com should be your first stop for downloads, support, samples, design resources and more. The links on this page are some that I've pulled out that will be of use to web developers looking to start developing native apps for Windows 8 using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This list is correct for the week of 15 Jan 2013 and is intended as a quick set-up guide for attendees of the 2013 New Adventures conference. Please make sure to check dev.windows.com for up to date links in future.

    Getting started as a designer - design.windows.com

    There's a new set of resources that have been produced with designers and User Experience professionals in mind. Again, keep checking back to the main design portal at design.windows.com for the most up to date information.

    Additional Resources

    UK Resources to help you

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Phone SDK Update for Windows Phone 7.8


    Windows Phone

    Today the Windows Phone team announced the availability of the Windows Phone SDK Update for Windows Phone 7.8 for targeting the Windows Phone 7.8 operating system which replaces Windows Phone 7.5.

    This is an optional update that adds two new Windows Phone 7.8 emulator images to your existing SDK installation. The emulator will allow you to fully test how your Windows Phone app’s Live Tiles will look and behave when they are run on a device running Windows Phone 7.8.

    The Windows Phone Team have announced this and detail whats included in the Windows Phone SDK update.If your an existing Windows Phone developer I would recommend you look at  Thomas Fennel’s blog on how to ‘light up’ your 7.5 app in Windows Phone 7.8 and 8.0 for a technical overview of how to use the new emulator images.



    The Windows Phone SDK update adds the following capabilities to your machine:

    • Windows Phone 7.8 emulator: This OS image emulates your app running on a 512-MB device running Windows Phone 7.8 (build 8878)
    • Windows Phone 7.8 256MB emulator: This OS image emulates Windows Phone 7.8 (build 8878) running on a 256-MB device
    • If you’re running a Windows Phone SDK 7.1 installation, the update will also download and install the Windows Phone SDK 7.1.1 update onto your machine as part of the update
      (again, only applicable to Windows Phone SDK 7.1 installations)

    Most importantly, any Windows Phone apps that you build using the Windows Phone 7.8 SDK  still target and run on Windows Phone 7.5. This update simply makes it easier to test how your apps appear on devices running Windows Phone 7.8.

    Live Tile options when running on Windows Phone 7.8

    At a high level, Windows Phone 7.8 allows you to have your 7.5 apps behave much like apps do on Windows Phone 8 devices, allowing you to do the following on a user’s start screen:

    • Your app’s primary tile can have a customized small tile, support wide tiles, and also take advantage of the Flip tile template.
    • Secondary tiles can be enabled to take advantage of all three of the new tile templates (Flip, Iconic, and Cycle).

    Taking advantage of the new tile options available in Windows Phone 7.8 uses the same reflection approach that folks have been using over the past few months light up their 7.5 apps on Windows Phone 8 (refer to the ‘lighting up’ your tiles on Windows Phone 8.0 topic on the Windows Phone Dev Center for details).

    Additional links for more information

    The SDK update requires an existing installation of the Windows Phone SDK:

    For further information on developing Windows Phone apps that light up on Windows Phone 7.8 and Windows Phone 8.0, you may find the following links helpful:


    Windows Phone SDK Update for Windows Phone 7.8

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