• Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Getting up to speed with JavaScript & HTML5


    How does one get started? Here is a four-step program:

    The fundamentals. If you are looking to get started with the fundamentals, you may want to start online with JavaScript Tutorial. If books are more your speed, you should definitely start with Eloquent JavaScript by Marijn Haverbeke which is available in digital form as well for free.

    Next steps to the next level. Once you have the fundamentals under your belt, you should begin checking out the following videos:

    Did you know Internet Explorer has a JavaScript de-minifier? Ever been frustrated when you view source on a JavaScript file only to be frustrated that whitespacing and tabs have been removed? If you are in Internet Explorer and press F12, it will bring up the Developer Tools. On the Script tab, select the Script file you would like to view which will show you the file:


    You can then click on the Configuration button and Select “Format JavaScript” and you will see the script in its un-minified state.


    Today, there are more layout options available to us. For example, we can use CSS3 Media Queries to define styles based not on the actual browser being used, but the precise device capabilities being used to view our site. Media Queries is just one option, but we now are beginning to add other layout items to our arsenal with things such as CSS3 Flexible Box (“Flexbox”) Layout, CSS3 Grid Alignment, CSS3 Multi-column Layout, CSS3 Positioned Floats. If you are interested in learning more about layout options, check out:

    · IE 10: The Future of Adaptive Web Design

    · The future of CSS Layouts

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    HTML5 and Streaming Media Content


    The following is a quick guide on HTML5 Video and the Microsoft Media Platform, I have recently had a number of question and interest from a  number of UK universities whom are looking at providing streamed media content both on and off campus.

    Microsoft has developed the IE Test Drive Video Format support page to see some examples of how various codecs work across the different browsers.


    What this means?

    Web developers are generally happy to leave their existing solution in place to play their pre-existing video/audio content using plugins. However many are now supplementing these plugins with the HTML5 Video and Audio tag if the browser is able to play their particular codec of choice natively. This is ideal as the most popular mobile platforms H.264, AAC and MP3 are generally well supported using the HTML5 video and audio tags.

    How Do You Get Started?


    The Microsoft Media Platform (MMP) frameworks are the glue that holds together individual pieces of the Microsoft end-to-end media solution.

    Are the services scalable?

    Microsoft MMP  is the the video platform that sits behind the Rugby World Cup 2011 event.

    The Microsoft Media Platform: Player Framework (that is licensed for commercial use under the Microsoft Public License Ms-PL) has recently added a preview of support for HTML5 (API Documentation) that enables you as web developers to compliment the Silverlight player framework with a HTML5 video experience that enables you to reach additional mobile platforms.

    Commercial Software offerings

    There are a number of commercial solutions available that do all the work for you.

    Example of these include

    JW Player™ (licensed for commercial use)

    SublimeVideo® (Player as a Service).

    What if You Want to use your Own Player or existing solution?

    It is surprisingly easy to utilise your own video solution using the default browser controls and codecs that the browser supports. The markup below shows what you need to play a video in HTML5 with a “Fall Back” to an unlisted video on YouTube.


    Configuration considerations

    1. Video MIME types supported

    Cross Browser HTML5 video running under IIS

      Video Formats supported -

      • m4v,
      • mp4,
      • webm,
      • ogg,
      • wmv,
      • swf fallover.

    The order of your markup does matter please list them as above

    Add in the MIME Types support to IIS.

      Under IIS 7+ this is found under Website -> IIS -> MIME Types, and you’ll want to add:

      File name extension / MIME type:

      • .webm – “video/webm”
      • .ogg - “application/ogg”
      • .ogv - “video/ogg”
      • .mp4- “video/mp4″
      • .m4v - “video/m4v”

    Turn off Compression under Website -> IIS -> Compression, and unchecking “Enable dynamic content compression”, and “Enable static content compression

    Using Microsoft Azure Service

    Azure Storage Explorer also allows you to do this on individual files. of one of the following formats:

    • .mp4 - “video/mp4″
    • .m4v - “video/m4v”
    • .webm - “video/webm”
    • .ogg - “application/ogg”
    • .ogv - “video/ogg”
    • Set these in the web.config

    Video Fall-back settings

    • Fall-back content (like the YouTube example above) is only displayed by browsers that do not support the <video> tag.
    • If the browser supports the video tag but cannot play any of the media types that you have requested the fall-back code won’t fire. In this case you need to use JavaScript to detect this scenario using the canPlayType() method and provide fall-back content as shown in the example below.


    3. Byte Range Requests (seeking)

    • Content should be served from a HTTP 1.1-compatible web server to enable seek ahead to the end of the video.
    • If you server is not HTTP 1.1-compatible (e.g. Azure Storage) you must encode the video with key index frames in the file & not at the end so that seek ahead still works. The “H.264 YouTube HD” profile in Expression Encoder 4 Pro does this.
    • Also note that if the video file is gzipped seeking won’t work. Since with most codecs the video/audio data is already compressed, gzip/deflate won't actually save you much bandwidth anyway.
    • IIS also supports Bit Rate Throttling to save you bandwidth on the server side when delivering video content.

    What’s next for HTML5 Video?

    There are currently a few key areas not addressed by the current W3C Video Standard (full screen support, live streaming, real time communication, content protection, metadata and accessibility). Recently the W3C Web and TV Workshop discussed some of these areas and offered some early thinking on how they may be adopted as web standards in the future.

    A real issues is the lack of a solution for live and adaptive streaming. Currently there are three proprietary solutions that support live and adaptive streaming.

    Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) is currently in Draft International Standard. It looks likely that it will get W3C support if it is offered royalty free.

    DASH supports:

    • Live, on-demand and time-shifted content delivery and trick modes
    • Splicing and ad insertion
    • Byte-range requests
    • Content descriptors for protection, accessibility and rating

    Access to beta test and learn more about HTML5 media services?

    HTML5Labs is where Microsoft prototypes early and unstable specifications from web standards bodies such as W3C. Sharing these prototypes helps Microsoft have informed discussions with developer communities to provide better feedback on draft specifications based on this implementation experience.

    On the labs site Microsoft has released a Media Capture Audio Prototype that implements the audio portion of this W3C specification. The next prototype will support Speech recognition and will implement the Microsoft proposal available on the W3C website.

    Overall Conclusion

    If you are hosting progressive download video and audio on the web you should be looking to support HTML5 video and audio today to extend the reach of your content.

    Useful Resources

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Python Tools for Visual Studio



    An integrated environment for developing Python in Visual Studio 2010

    - Support for CPython & IronPython (and Pypy and Jython)

    - World-class intellisense, Browsing, Find All refs, Refactor, …

    - Integrated REPL, including support for MSR’s Sho and the IPython REPL

    - Advanced local & remote Debugging, including Attach scenarios

    - Profiling with A/B comparison

    - Support for HPC clusters, MPI programming model & cluster Debugging

    - Interactive parallel computing via IPython

    - And it’s Free & Open Source!


    Resources for Python Tools for VS2010

    Python Tools for  Visual Studio 2010 - Core editing experience with Python Tools for Visual Studio

    Python Tools for Visual Studio 2010 - Profiling with Python Tools for Visual Studio

    Download - http://pytools.codeplex.com

    To install, please see:  Installing Python Tools Visual Studio

    Who’s using Python


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    NUI and application interaction Bing maps and Bing Streetside view


    I was at the University of York yesterday and had a quick conversation re: the opportunity of the Microsoft Kinect SDK and Bing maps. The conversation was specifically in relation to Bing Street Side View Maps and Open Street Maps and the interaction with a NUI using the Kinect device.


    This conversation was interested as yesterday I posted a blog about the new WPF for Surface 2.0 so I wanted to share some further detail in light of yesterdays conversation into the PrimeSensor in WPF.

    To help explain this I want to share the following video from InfoStrat.

    Using the same techniques that allow us to use WPF on Surface, we can now use depth camera hand tracking to control multi-touch applications. Here is a very rough proof-of-concept where Joshua Blake, Microsoft Surface MVP author Multitouch in .NET book and (WPF 4 & Surface SDK)controlling the InfoStrat.VE WPF 4 multi-touch control using a depth camera.

    Josh simply controls Bing Maps with the Kinect 3D-sensing technology

    In this  multi-touch application Josh display an outlines of the tracked hands to provide better feedback about what is going on he also used OpenNI and NITE from PrimeSense.

    The tracked hands can participate in all of the multi-touch manipulations and gestures that you’ve already written for your touch application. You can even interact using hand tracking and touch at the same time in the same window. The code that enables this is part of the InfoStrat MotionFx open sourced project which is available from http://motionfx.codeplex.com/

    What is shown above in the video that it is feasible to use the WPF Touch stack and Surface SDK as the unified platform for both multi-touch and motion tracking modalities.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    August Update from Microsoft Research & Faculty Connection



    Understanding the Immune Response to HIV

    HIV infection may not be the death sentence it once was, but it remains an undeniably serious condition that requires aggressive, life-long treatment and entails the ever-present threat of severe immunological impairment. Consequently, medical researchers continue to investigate the mechanisms by which HIV infection evades detection by the body’s normal immune responses. In the August 3, 2011, issue of Nature, investigators from the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard; Imperial College London; the National Cancer Institute; and Microsoft Research have shed light on the interactions of HIV and the immune system’s natural killer (NK) cells. The paper is the first to show that NK cells play a direct role in fighting HIV. This knowledge opens a new path of research into ways to beat the virus.


    Graduate Women's Scholarship Program

    The Microsoft Research Graduate Women’s Scholarship is a one-year scholarship program for outstanding women graduate students and is designed to help increase the number of women pursuing a PhD. This program supports women in the second year of their graduate studies. Women who are interested in this scholarship must apply during their first year of graduate studies. Scholarships are granted by Microsoft Research at the discretion of Microsoft. Microsoft began accepting applications on Tuesday, August 16, 2011. To be considered, all applications must be submitted by Thursday, October 6, 2011, 11:59 P.M. Pacific Time.


    Kinect for Windows SDK Beta Refresh Available

    Interest in the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) beta, released on June 16, 2011, has been strong, and we’re delighted to learn that so many developers and innovators who are experimenting with natural user interface (NUI) applications have taken advantage of the SDK to explore the potential of the Kinect sensor. In support of our commitment to encourage researchers and enthusiasts in their exploration of the exciting possibilities of the Kinect sensor, we have now released a refreshed version of the SDK. The community has provided us with a lot of good feedback, and this release addresses some of the top items you’ve told us about.


    Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship Program for 2012

    The Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship Program for 2012 started accepting applications on Tuesday, August 16, 2011. This program recognizes the best and the brightest Ph.D. students in the United States and Canada. Applicants must be enrolled in a full-time PhD program in an accredited university in the United States or Canada, with a research focus in computer science, mathematics, or electrical engineering. All applications must be submitted through the office of the department chair. To be considered, all applications must be submitted by Thursday, October 6, 2011, 11:59 P.M. Pacific Time.


    Cloud Infrastructure Soars in Europe

    It was barely a year ago that European scientific and industry leaders came together to develop, test, and deploy a high-quality, interoperable cloud platform for industry and research. The result was VENUS-C (Virtual multidisciplinary EnviroNments USing Cloud infrastructures). Jointly sponsored by the European Commission and a consortium of 14 partners, among them Microsoft Research, VENUS-C was conceived to meet the needs of seven different research and commercial areas: bioinformatics, systems biology, drug discovery, civil engineering, civil protection, civil emergencies, and marine biodiversity. VENUS-C has since developed into a functional, operational platform, and is now being used for 15 new pilot projects, which received seed funds after an open call that elicited 60 proposals from throughout Europe.


    Faculty Summit 2011

    As you may already know, Microsoft Research Connections hosted our twelfth Faculty Summit in July, providing a forum for lively debate of the development, application, and funding of technologies in the environmental, medical, and educational spheres over a long period of time. Presentations and streaming video of keynotes, talks, panels, workshops, and demonstrations are now available on-demand—find links to them on the agenda page.

    Upcoming Events

    September 8–9 Microsoft Biology Foundation Workshop 2011, Phoenix, AZ

    September 27  Microsoft Research 20-Year Anniversary, Redmond, WA, United States

    October 20—21 Microsoft Biology Foundation Workshop 2011, San Diego, CA

    October 23—25 eScience Workshop: Transforming Scholarly Communication, Cambridge, MA

    November 9–12 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, Portland, OR, United States

    December 4–8 2011 eScience in Action Workshop, Stockholm, Sweden

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Surface 2 now has Bing maps support


    I am pleased to announce to all those interested in Surface 2.0 developments that the Bing team have released the Beta of a WPF version of their Bing maps control. You can now Download the map control and write some mapping enabled Surface applications.


    The Bing Map APIs will be consistent with the Silverlight version of the control. If you already know how to use the Silverlight map control, you are set. It will support the following map styles: Road, Aerial and Hybrid.

    The map uses WPF4’s manipulation events for scaling, translation and rotation – providing a consistent familiar experience for Microsoft Surface users. The WPF control supports full rotation and inertia with options to turn both off. Plus, infinite scroll maps, touch to lat/lon to pixel conversions  and the ability to plug into the Bing Maps REST API for geocoding and routing or the Bing API for search.

    For more detailed information on the Bing WPF map control see the Bing Team Blog or read the documentation contained within the download.

    I look forward to hearing what mapping applications or research you undertake with this.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Learning all about Azure



    So are you up to speed on the Cloud?

    Learning all about Windows Azure - Curriculum Resources

    AzureMarketAppfabric thumbSQL Azure thumbWindows Azure

    Overview of Cloud Computing and the Windows Azure Platform: an Academic Perspective
    This presentation talks about the benefits of Cloud Computing and provides an in-depth look at Windows Azure.

    Windows Azure Platform Virtual Labs
    Click the link above to visit the MSDN site for Azure Platform Virtual Labs or click on any specific lab below. Virtual labs are simple, with no complex setup or installation required.

    Windows Phone 7 and The Cloud
    Exploring Windows Azure Storage
    Debugging Applications in Windows Azure
    Advanced Web and Worker Roles
    Windows Azure Native Code
    Building Windows Azure Services with PHP
    Getting Started with Windows Azure Storage
    Building Windows Azure Services
    Using Windows Azure Tables

    Reference Materials

    Introducing the Windows Azure Platform (Whitepaper)
    Using computers in the cloud can make lots of sense. Rather than buying and maintaining your own machines, why not exploit the acres of internet-accessible servers on offer today? Learn about the Windows Azure Platform in this white paper.

    Introducing Windows Azure (Whitepaper)
    Cloud computing is here. Running applications on machines in an Internet-accessible data center can bring plenty of advantages. Yet wherever they run, applications are built on some kind of platform. For on-premises applications, this platform usually includes an operating system, some way to store data, and perhaps more. Applications running in the cloud need a similar foundation. The goal of Microsoft’s Windows Azure is to provide this. Part of the larger Windows Azure platform, Windows Azure is a platform for running Windows applications and storing data in the cloud.

    Additional Windows Azure Whitepapers
    Follow the link above to see a list of additional whitepapers about Windows Azure.

    Windows Azure Software Resources

    Microsoft Web Platform Installer
    Download the Microsoft Web Platform Installer plus other tools and videos on topics such as SQL Azure Database, PHP on Windows Azure, Web seminars and the Cloud Developer Center on MSDN.

    Windows Azure Platform Training Kit
    The Windows Azure Platform Training Kit includes a comprehensive set of technical content including hands-on labs, presentations, and demos that are designed to help you learn how to use the Windows Azure platform including: Windows Azure, SQL Azure and the Windows Azure AppFabric.

    Windows Azure SDK and Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio (March 2011)
    Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio, which includes the Windows Azure SDK, extends Visual Studio 2010 to enable the creation, configuration, building, debugging, running, packaging and deployment of scalable web applications and services on Windows Azure.

    Learning Journey

    And you can even develop your course curricula as a learning journey for development on Windows Azure.

    Week 1. Controlling Access in the Windows Azure Platform

    Week 2. Handling Blobs in Windows Azure

    Week3. Going NoSQL with Windows Azure Tables

    Week 4. Disconnecting with Windows Azure Queues

    Week 5. Developing Hosted Services for Windows Azure

    Week 6. Digging into Windows Azure Diagnostics

    Week 7. Managing Hosted Services with the Service Management API

    Week 8. Using SQL Azure

    Week 9. Looking at the Windows Azure AppFabric

    Some great resources

    Microsoft Showcase Videos on Windows Azure
    This site contains 300+ videos on Windows Azure.

    Windows Azure Case Studies
    Learn how others are using the Windows Azure platform to cut costs and increase their agility. Follow the link above to see a list of case studies about Windows Azure.

    Azure Research Engagement from Microsoft Research
    The Azure Research Engagement project aims to change the paradigm for scholarly and scientific research by extending the power of the computer into the cloud. We build the components of cloud technology and work with researchers in the field on projects that push the frontier of client and cloud computing.

    Azurescope: Benchmarking and Guidance for Windows Azure
    The purpose of this site is to present the results of regularly running benchmarks on the Windows Azure platform. These benchmarks are intended to assist you in architecting and deploying your research applications and services on Windows Azure. Included in the benchmark suite are tests of data throughput rates, response times, and capacity. Each benchmark is run against a variety of test cases designed to reflect common use scenarios for Windows Azure development.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Who doesn't like to play games? Teach them HTML5



    Recently I have been asked the same question by a number academics..

    how to try to make teaching programming interesting?

    As we all know one of the key things of learning is it has to be interesting, so simply getting students to use notepad to code isn't interesting and students will become quickly disengaged or simply turn off.

    So why not try to make things more interesting and teach them how to program a browser-based game, Key goals are the outcome is cross-platform compatible and also build upon some the skills your students may already have, in terms of web design and may also be really stimulating and of use to them in extra curricula activities so with these factors I am sure they would be really interested in learning more.

    So what about HTML5`s functions and/or JavaScript.

    Using HTML5 & JavaScript with a bit of CSS you can create some awesome browser based games like a dice game, bouncing balls, slingshot, Quiz’s, Memory challenges, Mazes, Card games and some phenomenal HTML5 games at http://www.canvasdemos.com/

    What's great about teaching HTML5

    HTML5 simply follows on from the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript but also for people with experience with these programming languages it offers so much more and for those with little or no experience with programming languages its something which is easily picked up and understood.

    In terms of curricula you can teach canvas element, audio and video implementation, event handling, form input validation and the usage of information storing. These are all new functions in HTML5.

    And you can even develop your course curricula as a learning journey.

    Week 1. Starting with the basics of HTML and CSS. follow by JavaScript introductions

    Week 2. Programming these functions followed by drawing the animation using the canvas element.

    Week 3. Using the canvas element,

    Week 4. Create the game logics (including the collision engine)

    Week 5. Using form input validation and adding some AI such as basic artificial gravity.

    Week 6 . You can then progress on basics of JavaScript arrays, CSS and the video elements.

    Week 7. You can use HTML5`s local storage API.

    Week 8. Develop a game uses and which includes the above and have a mini challenge between the students.

    So as a learning exercise you can introduce HTML5, JavaScript , CSS, the canvas element, audio and video implementation, event handling, form input validation, header/footer elements and the usage of information storing.

    Therefore ensuring students grasp the basics of HTML5 page formatting, CSS and a lot of JavaScript including event handling and the storage engine which will be appropriate and interesting and they can then go on and make AWESOME Web site.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Its that time of year when IT Departments are rolling out software updates, how are you fixed for software?


    So its that time of the year when IT Departments around UK institutions are rolling out software across the various PC clusters and teaching labs the question I have is,  do you have the most appropriate software available?

    Many UK Institutions have MSDN Academic Alliance


    So if you do have MSDNAA make sure your using the subscription effectively.  MSDNAA is great facility for providing software to all your labs and clusters. MSDNAA offers your department, school or faculty with Microsoft professional level software and also an amazing value add for your students as MSDNAA allows them to install operating systems such as Windows 7 and development tools Visual Studio Ultimate onto their personal PC’s.

    For all students and specifically Primary and Secondary school we have Microsoft DreamSpark so please make sure you sign up your school for DreamSpark.


    DreamSpark offers so much software and for FREE to all students undertaking studies.

    The image below only shows some of what is available for full details see http://www.dreamspark.com



    We have also updated Microsoft Faculty Connection resources with lots of FREE curriculum resources.

    For example
    XNA for game development
    Expression Studio for web design courses
    Small Basic

    Microsoft offers lots of FREE resources so please do take advantage.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    F# through Game Development and XNA

    Thinking of changing how you teach programming then look no further..


    A great way of introducing students to programming is by doing task which they will enjoy how about game development? Learning to program games for ages is exciting and also interesting, so if your thinking of changing the way you teach your Under Graduates programming or looking for a nice language to introduce students to the Visual Studio IDE what could be better than an interesting way to learn programming than this combination?

    Giuseppe Maggiore has just written to me about his new F# e-book, FRIENDLY F# through Game Development and XNA, where you learn F# through game development with XNA.

    I have just finished coauthoring the first version of a digital-only book about F# applied to gaming and simulations, which has been my topic of research and (very extensive) teaching during the last half decade; in fact, the book gathers the various samples I have used for teaching functional programming to my students.

    The main subject of the book is the F# language and its various constructs, but every single chapter is focused on game-related problem. Each one of the first 5 chapters describes a problem, shows and discusses its solution and then discusses in depth the F# constructs used.

    The 5 problems included in the book are:

    • a bouncing ball
    • the Saturn V rocket
    • an asteroid field
    • a large asteroid field optimized with quad trees
    • a police starship that must fight off a pirate ship attacking a cargo freighter

    In the last two chapters we use XNA to build a 2D and 3D renderer for two of the samples we have seen. The book shows the basics of the SpriteBatch class, the Model class, input management and audio with this powerful framework.

    So from a teaching perspective the book  covers the most important aspects of XNA in a simple and succinct way.

    The samples are all stored at: http://fsharpgamedev.codeplex.com/

    So if your thinking of adapting your curricula F# and game development may be ideal.

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