• Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    New Digital Literacy course teaches coding basics with TouchDevelop

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    Build Your First App” – a free two-hour eCourse – launched today at www.microsoft.com/digitalliteracy this is  the newest addition to the Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum.

    The course is a collaboration among Microsoft Learning experiences, Microsoft Research, and Microsoft YouthSpark. Students start on a path to learning computer science and are inspired to use Microsoft tools and platforms as they build their first apps

    If your interested in the Touchdevelop course see at http://aka.ms/buildyourfirstapp

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    · Learn the layout and elements of the TouchDevelop programming environment, and create your own account.

    · Learn programming principles that apply across all target devices – including lines of code, loops, variables, and conditional statements.

    · Create physics-based games that include sprites, touch input, and use of a device’s accelerometer.

    TouchDevelop, from Microsoft Research, lets you write scripts on mobile devices and traditional PCs. It is one of only three Microsoft tools to be included in “Hour of Code,” along with Kodu and Small Basic. TouchDevelop scripts can be exported to the Windows Store or Windows Phone Store, or shared as cross-platform HTML5 Web Apps. By learning the fundamentals of programming and a scripting language, students are well prepared to move on to HTML5, JavaScript, and more.

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    About this course

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    The course is immediately available online at www.microsoft.com/digitalliteracy and soon will be released on MLX so IT Academy teachers can assign it to students and track student progress.

    Presenter Steven Edouard guides learners through the course. Steven is a Software Development Engineer in Test for Microsoft Visual Studio, where he works on infrastructure and validation tools for the .NET runtime.

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    Author Peli de Halleux is a Senior Research Software Development Engineer in Microsoft Research, where he works on TouchDevelop, Moles, rise4fun, and Code Digger.

    Both Steven and Peli teach Computer Science at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle as part of the TEALS program and have facilitated several live TouchDevelop workshops. They were featured in the New York Times for their work with TEALS: “Fostering Tech Talent in Schools

    This course is a great resource to attract students to computer science by leveraging their interest in apps. The students will learn how to become a creator of technology using a Microsoft environment … even if they are running an iPad!  -- Peli de Halleux

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Tips and Tricks Best Practice for building your Windows 8 Game

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    WIN8

    HPENVYPavilion11x2_Page surface

    Developing your game on Windows Phone 8 here are some top tips from my colleague Simon Michael @simon_mich

    Developing your game

    1. Visit the Windows dev centre for documentation, tools and samples for Windows Store Apps Development.

    2. Register for a store developer account and reserve your app name/s as soon as possible. if you a student you can get a FREE Windows Store account from www.DreamSpark.com

    3. Make use of some key support resources such as Getting Started Guide, Windows app Builder blog, Windows developer forum and the many useful code samples that you can download and build.

    4. Ensure that you are aware of the key Windows 8.1 features that can really benefit your game. These include:

    More information on these features and more can be found at ‘Games for Windows’

    5. Ensure that your apps tile and splash screen images all look good and comply with Windows Store design guidelines. Check that the tile text is not truncated at any size. We strongly recommend that you support all four tile sizes for your app.

    6. Your app must support keyboard/mouse. You are advised to also support for touch. If your app does not support touch then you need to state this within the games description meta data field in the store listing (see #6.13.4 of the store cert requirements). If game design permits then adding other forms of supported user interaction such as pen and external game controllers can also benefit playability and is encouraged.

    7. Your game needs to be designed to work well across a number of different screen widths, screen resolutions and optionally in different orientations. In addition to testing on physical devices, take advantage of the powerful features in the “Visual Studio simulator for Windows Apps” to test your game in all screen resolutions and orientations.

    8. If your app has the technical ability to transmit data, you must maintain a privacy policy. You must provide access to your privacy policy in the Description page of your app, as well as in the app’s settings as displayed in the Windows Settings charm. (See certification requirement #4.1 for more info.)

    9. Your game should ideally target both Intel and ARM based devices. This will help to maximise the potential user-base for your game.

    10. If you have a premium (paid) game then we highly recommend that you consider adding either a time-based or feature-based trial option to your game. This is achieved by using the same game package – you do not need to create a separate trial game package.

    There is also a useful code sample.

    11. Create a continuous experience across devices by roaming game state and settings so that a user can pick up a game right where it was left off, regardless of the device they're using. Make it easy for users to use your game everywhere, across all of their devices, by maintaining settings and states with roaming. See also Guidelines for roaming app data.

    12. If your game uses In-app-purchases (IAP) then Windows 8.1 offers full support of both consumable and durable IAP. There is a useful code sample. You can simulate the IAP locally using CurrentAppSimulator but ensure that this is replaced with CurrentApp prior to submission to store cert.

    13. Ensure that you have the correct age/game ratings for your games. Some countries and regions require that you also rate your app through a specific ratings board and so please check the list of countries and ensure that these are in place. In addition, see #6.2 of the store cert requirements. If your app provides a user with uncontrolled: (i) access to online social networks, or (ii) sharing of personal information with third parties, including other gamers or online acquaintances, then you must assign it a Windows Store rating of at least 12+. If you're having trouble deciding between two age ratings for your app, choose the higher one- apps never fail certification for having too high a rating.

    14. Ensure that your game contains a privacy policy (if required), terms and conditions, version info and support contact info. See certification requirement #4.1 and #6.3.

    15. Try to ensure that loading time of the game appears linear and fast. Consider adding progress animations/indicators to provide feedback to the user that the game is still responsive. Try to avoid situations where the same splash screen is displayed for 10+ seconds without movement.

    16. Ensure that your game suspends and resumes as required.

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    Testing your Windows 8 game

    1. Ensure that you fully understand the Windows Store Cert Technical requirements and that your application complies with them. Also see the useful article on tips on resolving cert issues.

    2. The store certification phase consists of both a manual/user driven and an automated test phase. The Windows App Certification Kit (WACK) is the automated phase and Microsoft provide this to you. You should always ensure that your app passes the WACK 100% prior to submitting it to store certification.

    3. Read the ‘Testing Apps on Windows 8’ guide to understand what to focus on when testing your game for store cert.

    4. Try to test your game with a variety of physical devices (both Intel and ARM based) utilising keyboard/mouse and touchscreens (if relevant to your game). For ARM devices, the Nokia 2520 and Microsoft Surface/Surface 2 as examples of a few of the devices in the market.

    5. Also use the “Visual Studio simulator for Windows Apps” to test your game – including testing across all screen resolutions and orientations.

    6. When you submit your app to store, use the app submission checklist to ensure that you have everything covered.

    Building Games with Unity

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    1. For Unity-based games:

    • Download the Windows 8 porting guides for some great tips on porting your existing project to Windows.
    • Read the Unity Windows support forum
    • Ensure that you are using Unity v4.3.1 as a minimum (this is the earliest build to support Windows 8.1)
    • If you wish to use pre-made Unity plug-ins to add, for example, Windows 8.1 features, Azure/cloud functionality and advertising functionality then a few providers are: Unity asset store, Prime31 and Bitrave.

    For OpenGL-based games:

    For DirectX 9/10- based games:

    API information:

    Using Cloud Services:

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    • Windows Azure cloud services – IAAS and PAAS – virtual machines and fully scalable and on-demand compute and storage.
    • Windows Azure Mobile Services – supports iOS, Android and Windows
    • You can use the partner services directory to filter by platform and service type in order to find providers for such services as middleware, advertising, analytics, social plug-ins etc.
  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Tips and Tricks Best Practice for building your Windows Phone Game

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    Developing your game on Windows Phone 8 here are some top tips from my colleague Simon Michael @simon_mich

    Windows Phone

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    1. Visit the Windows Phone dev centre for documentation, tools and samples for Windows Phone Apps Development.

    2. Register for a store developer account and reserve your app name/s as soon as possible. Also register your phone for development.

    If your a Student you receive a FREE windows phone store account at www.dreamspark.com

    3. Make use of some key support resources such as Getting Started Guide, Windows Phone Developer Blog, Windows Phone Developer forum and the many useful code samples that you can download and build.

    4. Ensure that you are aware of the key Windows Phone 8 features that can really benefit your game.

    5. Ensure that your apps tile and splash screen images all look good and comply with Windows Phone Store design guidelines. Check that the tile text is not truncated at any size. We strongly recommend that you support all three tile sizes (small, medium, large) for your app.

    6. Your game needs to be designed and work well across all supported phone screen resolutions. Look to take advantage of the additional real-estate offered by the large screen phones.

    In addition to testing on physical devices, take advantage of the powerful features in the “Windows phone Emulator” to test your game in all screen resolutions and orientations.

    7. Be fully aware of the requirements for a privacy policy when using location services API and other network services. Full details are in #2.7 of the technical certification requirements.

    8. You should ensure that your game runs on both lower-end WP8 devices (these have 512MB RAM) and high-end WP8 devices (1GB Ram or more). This will help to maximise the potential user-base for your game. Examples of low-end devices include the Nokia 520 and Nokia 620 phones. Examples of high-end devices include Nokia 920, 925, 1020 and 1520. The game should run as expected within the smaller memory foot-print, should load within the required timescales and should have same performance as when running on the high-end devices. View the Nokia Phone specifications.

    9. Ensure that your game handles the devices hard back button as expected in #5.2.4 of the technical certification requirements.

    10. If you have a premium (paid) game then we highly recommend that you consider adding either a time-based or feature-based trial option to your game. This is achieved by using the same game package – you do not need to create a separate trial game package. There is also a useful code sample.

    11. If your game uses In-app-purchases (IAP) then Windows 8.1 offers full support of both consumable and durable IAP. Also see the guide to options for testing your IAP functionality.

    12. Ensure that you have the correct age/game ratings for your games. Some countries and regions require that you also rate your app through a specific ratings board and so please check the list of countries and ensure that these are in place.

    13. Your game must include the app name, version information, and technical support contact information that are easily discoverable. See #5.6.1 in the technical certification requirements.

    14. Ensure that loading time and responsiveness of the game complies with #5.1 and #5.2 of the technical requirements. See the information on app lifecycle management.

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    Testing your Game

    1. Ensure that you fully understand the Windows Phone Cert Technical requirements and that your application complies with them. Read the top certification failures and how to avoid them

    2. Read the ‘Testing Apps on Windows Phone 8’ guide to understand what to focus on when testing your game for store cert.

    3. Read the beta testing your app and IAP guide.

    4. Try to test your game on both a low spec and high spec Windows phone 8 device.

    5. Also use the Windows phone Emulator to test your game – including testing across all screen resolutions and orientations.

    6. When you submit your app to store, use the app submission checklist to ensure that you have everything covered.

    Building Games for Windows Phone 8 using Unity or Angle

    1. For Unity-based games:

    2. Read the detailed porting guides which provides advice on bringing iOS, Android and other platforms to Windows Phone 8.

    3. Consider using the ANGLE project to reuse existing OpenGL ES 2.0 code, and to apply their current skills to building apps and games for Windows devices.

    The goal of ANGLE is to allow Windows users to seamlessly run WebGL and other OpenGL ES 2.0 content by translating OpenGL ES 2.0 API calls to DirectX 9 or DirectX 11 API calls. See: http://code.google.com/p/angleproject/

    Using API information/References:

    Using Cloud Services:

    Windows Azure cloud services – IAAS and PAAS – virtual machines and fully scalable and on-demand compute and storage.

    Windows Azure Mobile Services – supports iOS, Android and Windows

    Using 3rd Party Services

    You can use the partner services directory to filter by platform and service type in order to find providers for such services as middleware, advertising, analytics, social plug-ins etc.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Understand Cloud Computing with Patterns and Practices

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    Microsoft Patterns & Practice team have released Twenty four design patterns Each pattern is provided in a common format that describes the context, solution, considerations for applying the pattern, and an example based on Windows Azure.

    Two primers and eight guidance topics Basic knowledge and descriptions of good practice techniques for developing cloud-hosted applications.

    Ten sample applications Usage of the design patterns described in this guide. You can use and adapt the source code to suit your own specific requirements.

    About patterns & practices

    The Microsoft Patterns & Practices team is responsible for delivering applied engineering guidance that helps software architects, developers, and their teams take full advantage of Microsoft’s platform technologies in their  application development project.

    Their goal is to help software development teams be more successful with the Microsoft application platform. We do this by delivering guidance that:

    ─     Helps to simplify the Microsoft application platform.

    ─     Provides solution guidance to common problems.

    ─     Helps development teams grow their skills and learn.

    For more information: http://www.microsoft.com/practices

    How to get it the new Windows Azure Cloud Patterns & Practices?

    You can view the documentation at http://aka.ms/cloud-design-patterns .

    The sample code is available for download at http://aka.ms/cloud-design-patterns-sample. A poster, book, and PDF is coming soon.

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  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Azure Cloud Services: 8 virtual cores with 56 GB of RAM, and 16 virtual cores with 112 GB of RAM.

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    Azure

    We have just announced two new instances for use with Windows Azure Cloud Services.

    These new instances are called A8 and A9,

    A8 -  8 virtual cores with 56 GB of memory

    A9 - 16 virtual cores with 112 GB of memory


    A8 and A9 belong to a new category of instances called compute-intensive instances that provide faster processors and more virtual cores for higher compute power, larger amounts of memory, and a 40 Gbit/s InfiniBand network that includes remote direct memory access (RDMA) technology for maximum efficiency of parallel Message Passing Interface (MPI) applications.

    Compute-intensive instances are optimal for running compute and network-intensive applications such as high-performance cluster applications, applications using modeling, simulation and analysis, and video encoding.

    For more information on using Windows Azure Cloud Services and pricing, please visit the Cloud Services website.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft Windows Azure Academic Training Days for Educators and Researchers

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    Windows Azure is an open and flexible global cloud platform supporting any language, tool, or framework, and is ideally suited to educators and researchers’ needs across all disciplines.

    In association with Microsoft Research we are please to announce FREE training for academic educators and researchers who would like to learn how to conduct their research on a highly scalable and flexible cloud infrastructure, such as that offered by Windows Azure.

    We are currently offering free, technical, two-day training event, presented by specialized Windows Azure for Research trainers. See the schedule of events

    Windows Azure for Research Training – Oxford 2014 The course hosted by the Oxford eResearch Centre saw 45 participants from 18 Organisations attend St Anne's College.Oxford, UK on the 20–21 January 2014

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    45 researchers from 18 universities and research organisations

    These courses are aimed at software research engineers, postdocs, research fellows, faculty members, and PhD students.

    The event  covers everything from Linux virtual machines, IPython, scaling out R and MATLAB calculations, cloud storage, sensor data processing, and, of course, big data processing. To help you apply these new tools and techniques, you will receive a 6-month Azure pass too, so you can further experiment and develop your research applications and we have an extensive set of teaching resources and Educators passes to support Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses at http://www.windowsazure.com/education

    Our next course is at Manchester University on 3-4 April 2014. You can apply via the course web page.

    We’ve released all of the training material as open source, which you can download here. We also have a webinar series with more coming soon, and technical papers that drill down into more detail.

    We’re also excited to be supporting 75 Windows Azure for Research projects around the world so far. Our next deadline for proposals is 15th February 2014 for proposals for 12 months of Windows Azure resources to accelerate your research. So please submit your ideas here.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Promote your Windows Phone app to get users’ attention and increase downloads

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    Here are a few quick tips for ensuring your app or game gets maximum exposure

    Use Social Networking

    Get a quick list of Twitter and Facebook best practices

    Use the Windows Phone Store Badge

    Point customers directly to your app via the ‘Download from Windows Phone Store’ badge. Incorporate the badges on your website, marketing materials, and advertising assets.


    Get the badge here

    Get your app promoted in the Windows Phone Store

    Make sure your app is ready to merchandise using these tips

    Shorten ad copy to help increase app downloads

    Partner offerings to help promote your apps

    Follow these steps:


    First, add the Microsoft Ad SDK to your app. The Microsoft Ad SDK is already included in Visual Studio, and is the #1 most used Ad Control for Windows Phone. Show banner ads in our key markets, and get high eCPM in many countries. Learn more



    Next, add the AdDuplex SDK to your app. AdDuplex is a cross-promotion network, letting you promote apps for free. For each 10 ads displayed in your app, 8 of your own ads will be displayed in other apps. The remaining 2 ads will be sold to support the service. Learn more



    Then, add the Smaato SDK to your app. Smaato is a mobile advertising network running a global Real-Time Bidding exchange. Get instant access to global quality ad inventory and ad networks with a single SDK. Learn more



    Finally, mix it up with AdRotator. AdRotator enables you to target multiple ad platforms and switch between them in a flexible way, to help maximize your ad revenue. AdRotator can be configured externally to your deployed apps, allowing you to change the flavours on the fly. Learn more

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    ID@Xbox - Independent Developers Publishing Program for Xbox One

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    Getting Ready for the next generation

    Bring your games to Xbox One!

    The ID@Xbox program enables qualified game developers of all sizes including educators and students to unleash their creativity by self-publishing digital games on Xbox One, giving studios the tools and support needed to maximize their success.

    Here's the process at a glance:

    The ID@Xbox Process

    About ID@Xbox

    No Cost Development Tools

    ID@Xbox developers get access to two developer kits at no cost, as well as access to all required technical documentation, private forums, free middleware, and more. And there are no fees to submit or update a game on Xbox One.

    Full Platform Access

    Games that come through ID@Xbox have access to the full power of the platform, including: Kinect, Achievements, Gamerscore, Challenges, SmartGlass, Xbox Live, and more. Bottom line: If a game can do it on Xbox One, an ID@Xbox game can do it on Xbox One.

    Great Discovery

    On Xbox One, a game is a game. All games are sold in the same store, and have access to the same great discovery and curation features, from our store Spotlight to Trending, and viral discovery tools such as your friends' activity stream and Upload Studio.

    Robust Community

    From worldwide summit development events to private forums for community support, ID@Xbox is designed to help your connect with your fellow developers to share insights.

    Start Building NOW!

    There is NOTHING stopping you from getting started building your XBOX One game right now if you can build for Windows 8 you can build for Xbox One.

    Here are the two paths available:

    Unity3D

    Unity3D will be fully supported for building XBOX One games. You can get get started right now by downloading the FREE version of Unity3D and starting to make your game straight away. Follow these tips for building to Windows 8 http://unity3d.com/pages/windows/porting 

    Learn Unity3D, build your game for Windows 8 and be ready to publish when you get the green light on Xbox One.

    Windows 8 games built using C++

    XBOX One games using C++/DX again you can start building your XBOX One game using C++ / DirectX NOW by creating a Windows 8 Direct3D App project using the template provided in Visual Studio 2012.

    When you are registered and get the SDK/XDK you will get the additional bits to publish and test to the XBOX One.

    To help you along there are also the DirectXTK and  DirectXTex libraries which are open source already prepped to work in the XBOX One.

    So Do you need a dev Kit?

    No you can download Unity just start with FREE or any other Pro version for now
    Start building Now for Windows 8 and just recompile your Windows 8 solution and deploy for the XBOX One when you get the bits
    Waiting for approval to ID@XBOX Don’t wait just start now while you are waiting
    Now don’t forget, unlike the X360 Indie program (XBLIG), the ID@XBOX process is officially curated by Microsoft, there will be an approval process to validate the quality, stability and price of your game before it’s approved to go on to the marketplace so if you understand the Windows 8 requirements these will put you in a good position for XboxOne . 

    If you haven’t signed up yet!

    http://www.xbox.com/id

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Be the next generation of Microsoft Application close in 2 days

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    Be the next generation of Microsoft


    At Microsoft, we’ve built our business on the same youthful enthusiasm and pioneering spirit that our founders had in 1975. Now, almost 30 years later, we still look for these qualities in our people.

    Our award-winning Software Development & Technical Consulting internships offer a unique opportunity to work for some of the most talented engineering and technology development teams in the world. We have a wide array of positions available and you are lucky enough to choose which of these would be your preference:

    Software Development and Software Development in Test opportunities:

    • Microsoft Studio’s teams (Lift, Lionhead, Rare and Soho Productions) in London, Guildford or Twycross
    • Games Test Organisation team in Reading
    • Online Service Division (BING) in London

    Technical Consultant and Technical Project Manager opportunities:

    • Microsoft Technology Centre in Edinburgh
    • Microsoft Solution Delivery in Reading
    • Online Service Division (BING) in London

    Our Software Development interns will get involved in everything from writing code for developing software products to getting involved in testing. You’ll also draw on your knowledge of programming languages, such as C#, C++, XML, .NET Visual Studio and benefit from a range of technical training.

    In Technical Consulting and Project Management, you will help deliver multiple software solutions, coordinate technical projects and provide consulting to a host of Microsoft’s biggest enterprise customers.

    To get you off to a flying start, you can look forward to a warm welcome and an induction course to help you find your feet. Then you’ll dive into a host of projects giving you valuable insights and real-life experience to take forward into your future career. As well as all of this, there’ll be extra-curricular projects to get involved in, an intern community, mentoring from our Leadership Team and a host of bespoke intern events.

    To find out what our current interns have been up to and involved with since joining us, visit our blog at beyourfuture.net.

    When ready to apply you can do so at microsoft.com/uk/graduates (click apply now and select Software Development and Technical Consulting intern stream). Be quick though, there’s strong demand for places and applications close on 31 January 2014.

             

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  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Kinect for Windows v2 Developer Preview Program closes in 2 days

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    You only have 2 more days to apply for 1 of the 500 spots in the program available to professional developers and others who want to build amazing experiences using Kinect including artists, students, and other creators who have great ideas to bring to life using the new Kinect for Windows v2 sensor and SDK.

    Selected participants will get a Beta device before we officially launch the new sensor next summer.

    The program fee will be US$399 (or local equivalent) and offers the following benefits:

    • Direct access to the Kinect for Windows engineering team via a private forum and exclusive webcasts
    • Early SDK access (alpha, beta, and any updates along the way to release)
    • Private access to all API and sample documentation
    • A pre-release/alpha sensor
    • A final, released sensor at launch next summer

    Applications must be completed and submitted by January 31, 2014, at 9:00 A.M. (Pacific Time)

    Register here http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/kinectforwindowsdev/newdevkit.aspx

    For more details on Kinect for Windows see http://www.kinectforwindows.com

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