• Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Choosing the right cross-platform mobile framework

    • 4 Comments

    Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to a few hundred people at  Apps World on a session entitled Cross Platform Panel: Exploring Methodologies & Tools.

    This is a fascinating area as today’s modern app developers are now ultimately having to become more agile in their abilities and use the best tools available to develop an app for as many platforms as possible within a shortest period of time to maximise the revenue their app or game can achieve.

    However having to develop an application or game for a diverse range of mobile platforms iOS, Android, Windows Phone etc.. has a number of constraints which need to be taken into consideration for example  each have their own ‘native’ development languages, UI/UX, developer tools and environments.

    But for the modern developer there is an ever growing list of cross-platform frameworks that allow you to minimise the cost and effort of developing mobile apps, but which to choose?

    So what Cross Platform Frameworks are available?

    Here is a list of some of the most common cross platform frameworks available for today’s mobile app builders.

    AIR

    The Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) is a cross-platform runtime for iOS and Android. It allows you to develop using ActionScript (a objected-oriented, strongly typed relative of JavaScript) by providing the Flash Player virtual machine to abstract away from the underlying hardware, with an extended API available to access device capabilities such as GPS and camera. Furthermore, this allows developers to use the Apache Flex enterprise application framework which provides its own UI components (and an associated UI framework), data binding, advanced data structures and other essential utilities. Flex also introduces the MXML language for the declarative creation of user interfaces.

    Enyo

    Enyo is a free and open source (Apache 2.0 license) cross-platform and cross-browser application development framework that enables developers to create HTML5 applications and deploy them to many modern desktop browsers and mobile devices.

    Enyo is built around the philosophy of fully-encapsulated components, which allow a developer to reuse component pieces (or even an entire application) in new or existing projects. It is possible to embed full Enyo applications in the DOM elements of existing Web pages.

    Enyo does not use templating, instead enyo.Controls (a kind of enyo.Component) render themselves into the DOM based on their owner/parent hierarchy in the application structure. Developers design the application structure/component with JavaScript object literals, adding methods and properties for functionality.

    Enyo has a dependency mechanism (package.js) to enable a basic modular approach to building applications. If you look at most Enyo projects, you will see references to a $lib directory in one or more package.js files, usually to include optional modules such as Layout (lists and responsive components) and Onyx (a widget library).

    Intel App Framework

    Intel App Framework is a framework for building cross-platform mobile application using HTML5 technologies. The framework started life as jqMobi, a mobile optimised version of jQuery, which was created by the team behind appMobi. Intel acquired the jqMobi tools and staff in February 2013.

    Intel App Framework is free and open sourced under an MIT licence. Intel also offer XDK, which is a a full suite of tools built around the App Framework. XDK adds an IDE, build tools and an emulator.

    Along with its lightweight JavaScript library, Intel App Framework provides a basic MVC framework and many UI components. Rather than mimicking the native look and feel, the framework has opted for providing its own styles which looks the same across all platforms. Styles can be customised using the framework Style Builder

    jQTouch

    jQTouch is a Zepto/jQuery plugin which provides a framework for developing iOS and Android applications. It is both open source and free to use.

    jQTouch provides a structure on which to base the HTML, the majority of the application styling, page transition animations and touch based event handling; however, it’s not a fully featured application development solution.


    jQuery Mobile

    jQuery Mobile is a HTML5 framework which makes it easy to create websites that mimic the iOS look and feel. This is achieved by providing HTML that is marked up with various jQuery Mobile specific attributes, which is then processed to generate the final markup. Within PropertyCross jQuery Mobile is combined with KnockoutJS, which provides a presentation model (MVVM), RequireJS, for dependency management, and Cordova / PhoneGap, which packages the HTML / JavaScript within a native wrapper for app-store deployment. Cordova also provides a set of APIs for accessing native phone functionalities which are not available via HTML specifications.

    The JavaScript Model and ViewModel code is shared across all mobile platforms, whereas the HTML files, which make up the View, are specific for each platform. This allows the UI for each platform to be tailored to the requirements of each platform.

    iOS version uses the out-of-the-box jQuery Mobile styles

    Windows Phone uses the jquery-metro-theme extensions to support the Windows UI style together with Windows Phone specific features such as the app-bar.

    Kendo UI

    Kendo provide a suite of web development frameworks, all of which are built on top of the ‘core’ Kendo UI MVVM framework. The Kendo UI Mobile framework adds a set of UI widgets for the creation of mobile interfaces. The mobile framework has a look and feel that mimics the native Apple, Android and Windows Phone themes.

    Lungo

    Lungo is a framework for developing cross-platform applications in HTML5. Lungo applications are run in the browser, similar to other HTML-based frameworks such as jQuery Mobile. Lungo provides 2 main workflows:

    Lungo provides a rich set of classes to help decorate basic HTML5 markup. The markup is then given behaviour and interaction based on the structure by Lungo, without any developer code being required. Lungo’s philosophy is that you should be able to create a prototype of your application to show basic interaction and page flow without having to write any JS yourself.

    Lungo also provides a JS API to interact and enhance the prototype. The Lungo API is similar to the common functionality you’d see in other mobile frameworks, such as DOM manipulation (through Quo.js), page routing and navigation, storage etc.

    mgwt

    Google Web Toolkit (GWT) is an open source set of tools that allows developers to create web apps in Java. GWT compiles Java into an optimised JavaScript application. GWT is most often used for large-scale web applications, with the strongly typed nature of Java making it easier to maintain a large codebase.

    mgwt is an open source mobile widget framework build using GWT. mgwt provides a number of UI widgets, CSS styles and a PhoneGap API which make it easier to develop native-like applications using GWT.

    PhoneJS

    PhoneJS is a commercial HTML5 framework for cross platform mobile application development from DevExpress. PhoneJS is free for non-commercial use.

    PhoneJS uses the Knockout MVVM framework for structuring the application, with the PhoneJS CSS providing a native-styled UI for the various phone platforms. PhoneJS applications use PhoneGap for packaging.

    DevExpress also offers a more integrated solution based on PhoneJS, called DXTREME Mobile, which adds Visual Studio tooling.

    RhoMobile

    RhoMobile Suite is an integrated set of tools, created by Motorola Solutions, for building cross-platform mobile application using HTML5, JavaScript and Ruby. RhoMobile is made available under an MIT licence. Applications are developed using RhoStudio which is an Eclipse-based IDE. During development, applications can be tested using the built-in RhoSimulator, which is a Webkit-based browser, or a platform specific simulator. Building RhoMobile applications for Windows Phone, iOS or Android relies on the presence of the native SDKs.

    RhoMobile applications follow the MVC pattern, with the application UI defined in HTML (with jQuery Mobile being used to style the output). Application logic can be programmed in either JavaScript or Ruby.

    Sencha Touch 2

    Sencha Touch is a framework for building cross-platform mobile application using HTML5 technologies. Similar to ExtJS, Sencha Touch provides a fully functional JavaScript API and a structured MVC approach for building mobile applications. Coding is done (almost!) exclusively in JavaScript - with the majority of the HTML and CSS being abstracted away behind the concept of “components”, which are configured and generated by the JavaScript code.

    Titanium  

    Appcelerator Titanium is a JavaScript-based development platform for iOS and Android development. The JavaScript code runs on the device within an interpreter, and the UI for a Titanium application is entirely native. Titanium development uses the Titanium Studio IDE, and depending on your OS, the Android SDKs and Xcode are also required.

    The

    Titanium APIs provide an abstraction layer for the Android and iOS UI elements, allowing you to write your view code against the Titanium abstraction. Although, there are some view concepts which have not been abstracted, meaning that developers have to write platform specific view code

    Xamarin

    Xamarin have two commercial products, Xamarin.iOS for iOS development and Xamarin.Android. The Xamarin frameworks allow you to write applications using C# and the .NET framework. For each platform Xamarin provide bindings to the native platform APIs. As a result Xamarin applications make use of the native UI for each mobile platform. Xamarin do not provide a Windows Phone product because the C# and .NET code used for Android and iOS development is directly portable to Windows Phone.

    What resources are available to help evaluate which is the best solution?


    PropertyCross http://www.propertycross.com

    To help solve this problem PropertyCross presents a non-trivial application, for searching UK property listings, developed using a range of cross-platform technologies and frameworks. Property Cross has a simple aim is to provide developers with a practical insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each framework so this is a definite resource you should check out if your interested in cross platform development.

    Conclusion

    I would love to hear your experiences of developing apps and games for cross platform support and which tool you find the most useful?

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Kinect V2 Preview SDK now available includes UNITY3D plugin

    • 1 Comments

    This week we released a preview version of the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0 and began shipping KinectV2 pre order devices to developer around the world.

    Whets New in Kinect V2

    • The new sensor can track as many as six complete skeletons and 25 joints per person.
    • Improved skeletal tracking: The enhanced fidelity of the depth camera, combined with improvements in the software, have led to a number skeletal tracking developments. In addition to now tracking as many as six complete skeletons (compared to two with the original sensor), and tracking 25 joints per person (as compared to 20 with the original sensor).
    • Higher depth fidelity: With higher depth fidelity and a significantly improved noise floor, the v2 sensor gives you better 3D visualization, increased ability to see smaller objects and all objects more clearly, and more stable skeletal tracking.
    • 1080p HD video: The colour camera captures full, beautiful 1080p video that can be displayed in the same resolution as the viewing screen, allowing for a broad range of powerful scenarios. In addition to improving video communications and video analytics applications, this provides a great input on which to build high-quality, augmented reality scenarios, digital signage, and more.
    • New active infrared capabilities: In addition to allowing the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor to see in the dark, the new infrared (IR) capabilities produce a lighting-independent view, which makes machine learning or computer-vision–based tasks much easier—because you don’t have to account for or model lighting-based variation. And, you can now use IR and colour at the same time.
    • Wider/expanded field of view: The expanded field of view enables a larger area of a scene to be captured by the camera. As a result, users can be closer to the camera and still in view, and the camera is effective over a larger total area.

    In addition to the new sensor’s key features, the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0 includes:

    • Improved skeletal, hand, and joint orientation: With the ability to track as many as six people and 25 skeletal joints per person—including new joints for hand tips, thumbs, and shoulder centre—as well as improved understanding of the soft connective tissue and body positioning—you get more anatomically correct positions for crisp interactions and more accurate avateering.
    • Support for new development environments: New Unity support provides faster, cost-efficient, and high quality support for cross-platform development, enabling developers to build their apps for the Windows Store using tools they already know.
    • Powerful tooling: Thanks to Kinect Studio’s enhanced recording and playback features, developers can develop on the go, without the need to have a Kinect sensor with them at all times. And Gesture Builder lets developers build their own custom gestures that the system recognizes and uses to write code by using machine learning.
    • Advanced face tracking: With significantly increased resolution, applications can capture a face with a 2,000-point mesh that looks more true to life. This means that avatars will look more lifelike.
    • Simultaneous multi-app support: New multi-app support enables more than one application to access a single sensor simultaneously. This means you could have a business intelligence app running at the same time that a training or retail or education experience were running, allowing you to get analytics

    For Game developers, Architects and AR Professional.

    The new SDK 2.0 public preview includes Unity support for faster, cost-efficient, and high quality support for cross-platform development, enabling developers to build their apps for the Windows Store using tools they already know. see online training at http://channel9.msdn.com/coding4fun/kinect/Kinect-for-Windows-v2-SDK-and-Unity-3D

    Training

    Join our Microsoft Virtual Academy to learn from our experts and jump start your development.

    Key links

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    FREE Unity3d Plug-in for Windows 8 and Windows Phone

    • 6 Comments

    There are three great plugin and Unity3d Asset available today

    image

    Prime 31

    Windows 8

    Check the release notes page for up to the minute information about each release.

    • Microsoft Store Plugin

      The Microsoft Store Plugin lets you offer your app as a free trial and sell in app purchases. Get full access to the available license information for your app and all of your products. Includes Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 support. This plugin requires Unity 4.5+.Download Now

    • Metro Essentials Plugin

      There is something here for everyone. The Metro Essentials Plugin exposes RoamingSettings (similar to Apples iCloud), live tiles, toasts, the settings charm, the share charm and snap events. All the goodies you need to metro-ize your game are here! This plugin requires Unity 4.5+.Download Now

    • Social Networking Plugin (Twitter and Facebook) $75

      Let word of mouth sell your game for you with this plugin! Post high score updates and achievements to the biggest social networking sites out there with just a couple lines of code. It's all here. For those who want to dig deeper into the Graph API with it's wealth of information, we support that too. Twitter integration includes all the usual suspects including posting updates, getting a users followers and full access to the entire Twitter API! This plugin requires Unity 4.5+.Buy Now

    • Microsoft Ads Plugin

      Access the Microsoft Advertising SDK to display ad banners and monetize your app. With over 15 banner variants to choose from you are guaranteed to find one that fits your game without ruining the experience for your users. This plugin requires Unity 4.5+.Download Now

    • Microsoft Azure Plugin

      The Azure web services are a powerful way to store data. Accessing them from a Unity game has never been easier. One line of code is all it takes to store any object remotely and securely on Azure. Retriving and deleting objects is just as easy.Download Now

    • Flurry Analytics Plugin

      Coming soon...

      Use Flurry to learn the habits of your users! Collect valuable data like which devices they're using, if your game levels have appropriate difficulty and if anyone's bothering to read your tutorial. Sprinkle calls to log events throughout your code and watch the statistics roll in! This plugin requires Unity 4.5+.

    Windows Phone

     Check the release notes page for up to the minute information about each release.

    • Microsoft Store Plugin

      The Microsoft Store Plugin lets you offer your app as a free trial and sell in app purchases. Get full access to the available license information for your app and all of your products.Download Now

    • Social Networking Plugin (Twitter and Facebook) $75

      Let word of mouth sell your game for you with this plugin! Post high score updates and achievements to the biggest social networking sites out there with just a couple lines of code. It's all here. For those who want to dig deeper into Facebook's Graph API with it's wealth of information, we support that too. Twitter integration includes all the usual suspects including posting updates, getting a users followers and full access to the entire Twitter API! Buy Now

    • AdMob Plugin $40

      AdMob has finally made its way to Windows Phone 8! Create and display a banner with one line of code. Full interstitial support is also included for ultra high CPM adverts. This plugin requires Unity 4.5+. Buy Now

    • Microsoft Ads Plugin

      Access the Microsoft Advertising SDK to display ad banners and monetize your app. Monetize your free apps with Microsofts high CPM ad banner solution today! This plugin requires Unity 4.5+. Download Now

    • Windows Phone Essentials Plugin

      There is something here for everyone. The Windows Phone Essentials Plugin exposes live tiles and push notifications to Unity. A host of Windows Phone sharing tasks are also exposed including the SMS composer, email composer, web browser, link sharing, status update sharing, rate this app, photo chooser and more! All the goodies you need to metro-ize your game are here! Download Now

    • Flurry Analytics Plugin $45

      Use Flurry to learn the habits of your users! Collect valuable data like which devices they're using, if your game levels have appropriate difficulty and if anyone's bothering to read your tutorial. Sprinkle calls to log events throughout your code and watch the statistics roll in! Buy Now

    image

    BitRave

    Unity Windows 8 Plugins

    Bit Rave have extensive experience working with the Windows 8 platform capabilities, and as part of that we decided to build a library for Unity to make Windows 8 integration easier for everyone.

    Azure plugins are now separate. Information can be found here: http://www.bitrave.com/azure-mobile-services-for-unity-3d/

    Find out just how easy it is for each of the Windows 8 capabilities.

    • Live Tiles - of all shapes and sizes
    • Charms - including sharing and settings
    • Settings - both local and roaming settings
    • Snap View - have your app react to orientation and view changes
    • Search - create your own search charm implementation (coming soon)
    Azure Mobile Services for Unity 3D
    Contents
    Before You Start

    The Azure Mobile Services plugin for Unity 3D is available open source at github.  That’s the place to go if you want to contribute or look at the source.  It’s on github here: https://github.com/bitrave/azure-mobile-services-for-unity3d .  However, if you don’t care about the source, and just use it, head to github as there is an example project with built binaries in it so you can just grab it and use it.

    image

    WinBridge

    The WinBridge is a plugin for Unity that enables easier command of native controls and features of WinRT (the underlying library behind Windows Store, Windows Phone and Xbox One apps). Currently implemented are:
    - Windows store (In-app-purchases, trial upgrade, receipt management, Windows store debugging)
    - Native message dialogs
    - Native and hardware-accelerated video playback
    This plugin is an open-source project by Microsoft developer evangelists, aiming to make porting to and development for Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox platforms easier. This plugin ships with compiled DLLs, but the full source is available at https://github.com/ProtossEngineering/WinBridge.

    https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/18924

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Announcing Blend and Sketch Flow for Visual Studio 2012

    • 0 Comments

    Blend

    We are pleased to announce new versions of Blend + Sketchflow preview for Visual Studio 2012. Bringing Blend and Visual Studio together offers more value. Blend is a great tool offering a wide variety of designers and developers the ability to quickly and easily build great looking and powerful UI.

    These new versions make available capabilities that were previously only available in Expression Blend such as Windows Presentation Foundation, Silverlight and SketchFlow support, unifying the design-centric tools for building Windows Store Apps and Windows desktop apps to Visual Studio users.

    This is for evaluation only and none of the platforms contain a go-live license. Therefore you SHOULD use other released versions of Blend for production work. 

    What is the Blend + Sketchflow Preview for Visual Studio 2012?

    Blend for Visual Studio 2012 can help you design user interfaces for applications with robust tools that solve complex design tasks for building Windows Store apps.

    The Blend + Sketchflow Preview introduces powerful WYSIWYG design capabilities to Visual Studio developers by providing support for WPF and Silverlight.

    What is the difference between Blend + SketchFlow Preview for Visual Studio 2012 and Blend for Visual Studio 2012 RTW? Do I need both?

    Blend for Visual Studio 2012 is a unique, innovative authoring tool with rich visual tools for creating Windows store apps using HTML/CSS and XAML. Blend is installed with most versions of Visual Studio 2012.

    Blend + SketchFlow Preview for Visual Studio 2012 delivers WPF, Silverlight, and SketchFlow support compatible with Visual Studio 2012. You can install this alongside Visual Studio 2012 RTW.

    What is SketchFlow; how does it differ from Storyboarding in Visual Studio 2012?

    SketchFlow provides an informal and quick way to explore, iterate and prototype user interface scenarios. SketchFlow is for building working prototypes of software for developers, while the new storyboarding capability allows PowerPoint to be used for capturing lightweight requirements from stakeholders.

    Resources

    · http://blendinsider.com/

    · http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Porting of a existing XNA Windows Phone Game to Windows 8

    • 6 Comments

    Windows Phone Win8_logo

    Basic considerations

    Typically, you develop an application for Windows Phone 7 by using Microsoft Silverlight  and one of the managed programming languages—usually C# or XNA.

    There are two main Windows Store app development approaches that you can use when migrating your Windows Phone 7 app: XAML, and JavaScript with HTML5. You develop Windows Store apps using C++, C#, or Visual Basic by using one of those languages with XAML, whereas you develop Windows Store apps using JavaScript with JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5 along with the Windows Library for JavaScript.

    Porting to a Windows Store app using XAML

    A Windows Store app using C++, C#, or Visual Basic, using XAML, is the preferred model for ports from Windows Phone 7. If you are familiar with Silverlight, you can port to a Windows Store app using XAML by using familiar languages like C# or Visual Basic, and a similar set of UI elements and APIs.

    For more detail about porting a Windows Phone 7 application to XAML, read Migrating a Windows Phone 7 app to XAML.

    Porting to a Windows Store app using JavaScript

    A Windows Store app using JavaScript is another model for Windows Phone 7 ports, and may be better suited for simple UI-based apps or to full-screen web apps or clients.

    However if your a game developer then you can move your existing Windows Phone XNA using Monogame.

    Porting to Windows Store app using MonoGame

    For some background you can read these posts:

    During the ThreeThing Game event, Dean Ellis @InfSpaceStudios  talked through the porting of a one of the teams Windows Phone game, Shear Carnage to Windows 8, the initial port took 7mins 47seconds, which is pretty impressive stuff!

    ShearC 

    Some of the key features, the team now need to work on now to get the app store ready is..

    • In app advertisement
    • Windows 8 Store app contracts and charms settings to allow the tweeting and sharing of results
    • Development of a online leader board
    • A ensuring the app functions is both landscape and portrait modes.

    Overall this is pretty stunning for existing Windows Phone developers taking existing or new phone apps to both the Windows Phone Marketplace and Windows 8 Store.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    XNA developers and Windows 8

    • 12 Comments

     


    xna_logo

     

    A large number of the UK’s Universities and colleges have been using XNA since 2004 within gaming course curricula on Windows, XBox and Windows Phone. We have a huge set of Free curricula resources for  XNA  game development at http://www.microsoft.com/faculty

    XNA over the last 7 years has provide a number of students and indie game developers with an impressive content pipeline, game assets, load functionality, animation, math, sound and user input tracking via gamepad, mouse, keyboard and touch with game logic organized in a straightforward game loop architecture, more recently we have also added curricula for XNA and Kinect.

    Within education XNA has been a huge driver for a number of students and developers who wanted to learn how to create games. XNA along with Visual Studio made it as easy as File –> New –> XNA Game Studio Project and you were off developing.

    Since Windows 8 is built on the strong foundation of Windows 7, any app built for Windows will run in the Windows 8 desktop environment. This includes apps based on XNA, Win32, .NET, WPF, Silverlight, etc. 

    Windows 8 also introduces a new type of app called a Metro Style App for developers that wish to make their app available in the Windows 8 Store, for free or for sale. Using Visual Studio 2012, you have a language choice of C++, XAML with C#, VB or C++, or HTML5/JS to create a Metro Style App.

    Using the XNA Framework is not a choice for building a Metro Style App. Official Microsoft guidance on game development is documented here.

    Windows 8 allows you too build highly immersive games using HTML5/JS, XAML/C#, XAML/VB or C++ and DirectX.

    However a number of you have already stressed too me, that you and your students have been developing with XNA and have an existing code base, or would like to import existing XNA games too Windows 8 your only option it would seem is running as a desktop app.

    This is where MonoGame comes in…

    image

    MonoGame is an Open Source implementation of the Microsoft XNA 4 Framework. The goal is to allow XNA developers on Windows & Windows Phone to port their games to the iOS, Android, Mac OS X, Linux with both PlayStation Suite and Windows 8 support currently under development.

    NOTE : This project is not linked with Microsoft or any of it subsidiaries. It is a non-profit, open source project. MonoGame is licensed under the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL)

    MonoGame provides a cross platform XNA Framework implementation for XNA developers who want to take their code to non-Microsoft platforms as well as the ability, to target Windows 8.

    MonoGame for Windows 8  you can take your XNA code and with a recompile and some additional features too simply create a Metro Style App for example Armed within the Windows Store uses MonoGame. I have too stress MonoGame is still under development and so any use of it should come with a note of advice to stay on top of that effort.

    In order to provide a complete implementation of XNA on Windows 8, MonoGame leverages SharpDX , an open-source project delivering the full DirectX API for managed code (.NET) and Windows 8 (WinRT). SharpDX is an open-source project, free of charge available under the following MIT License.

    Theoretically by moving your code over into a new Visual Studio Project Solution along with MonoGame, you should de able too recompile a Windows 8 Metro Style game so if your a XNA Developer give it a try and let me know the results.
  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Azure Offer for Academics 5 Month Pass

    • 0 Comments

    Azure_thumbnail

    Educators

    Microsoft provides grants for educators wanting to use Windows Azure platform in their curricula. These grants are facilitated through Windows Azure academic passes, which provide the following resources for a period of 5 months from the date of redemption:

    Windows Azure
    • 2 small compute instances
    • 3GB of storage
    • 250,000 storage transactions
    • 100,000 Access Control transactions
    • 2 Service Bus connections
    SQL Azure
    • Two 1GB Web Edition database
    Data Transfers

    (Per Region)

    • 3 GB in
    • 3 GB out

    Apply for a grant

    Grant applications are designated for faculty who are teaching Windows Azure in their curricula as well as faculty preparing to integrate Windows Azure into their curricula. Educator Grant awards are subject to demand and availability.

    To apply for an Educator Grant please contact AzureU@Microsoft.com and provide us with:

    • Your name
    • Your email contact
    • Institution/University name
    • Course name
    • Course description
    • Number of students in your course
    • Number of Windows Azure platform academic passes needed
    • Date when passes will be used


    Apply Today!

    Windows Azure Educator Grants FAQs

    Q: What are the Windows Azure Educator grants?

    A: The Windows Azure Education Grants are focused on enabling educators to easily leverage the benefits of the Windows Azure platform for curriculum development and teaching. Through these grants, educators can obtain easy access, with no Credit Card required, to the Windows Azure platform for an extended period of time at no cost for themselves and their students. Access to the Windows Azure platform is made possible through 5 month Windows Azure platform academic passes. Educator Grants may be available up to the number of students within the course, dependent on the volume of requests, pass availability, and the needs of the course.

    Q: What resources are available through the Windows Azure platform academic pass?

    A: Each 5 month Windows Azure platform academic pass provides the following resources:

    Windows Azure
    2 small compute instances
    3GB of storage
    250,000 storage transactions

    SQL Azure
    Two 1GB Web Edition database

    AppFabric
    100,000 Access Control transactions
    2 Service Bus connections
    Data Transfers (per region)
    3 GB in
    3 GB out

    1 Hosted Service

    Q: What is the Gifting Letter and who needs to sign this?

    A: If you are granted a Windows Azure Educator Grant, we require that you sign a “Gifting Letter” in order to ensure compliance with all applicable government gift and ethics rules, which restrict/prohibit government employees. Your ethics officer, (or designated executive/office responsible for your organization’s gifts/ethics policy), or responsible attorney should review and sign this letter.

    Q: How do the Windows Azure platform academic passes get redeemed?

    A: Each Windows Azure platform academic pass is redeemable through http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/community/education/program/educators/ If you receive an Educator Grant we will send you a PowerPoint deck which will guide you and your students through the easy process of redeeming these passes.

    Q: Why is Microsoft offering this?

    A: A large percentage of the academic community has developed curricula materials leveraging the Windows Azure platform for teaching Cloud-centric courses. We are experiencing an increase in demand from the academic community for access to the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure Educator Grants allows us to enable even more members of the academic community to leverage the Windows Azure platform within their courses.

    Q: Are Windows Azure Educator Grants available globally?

    A: Windows Azure Educator Grants are available worldwide.

    Q: Is there an available education discount program for the Windows Azure platform?

    A: At this time, we do not offer education discount pricing for the Windows Azure platform.

    Q: Who can apply for a Windows Azure platform Educator Grant?

    A: Educators at accredited academic institutions can apply for the Windows Azure Educator Grants.

    Q: How do I apply for a Windows Azure platform Educator Grant?

    A: Applying for a Windows Azure platform academic pass is easy. Simply go to http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/community/education/program/educators/

    We will ask you for the following information:

    · Your name
    · Your email contact
    · Country
    · Institution/University name
    · Course name
    · Course description
    · Number of students in your course
    · Number of Windows Azure platform academic passes needed
    · Date when Windows Azure platform academic passes will be used

    Q: What factors will Microsoft consider when determining who will receive a Windows Azure Educator Grant?

    A: Windows Azure Educator Grants will be awarded based on factors such as purpose of use, number of passes required, and timing requirements for usage of the passes.

    Q: I am a student. Can I apply for a pass?

    A: Windows Azure Educator Grants are only valid for valid faculty. If your faculty has been awarded a Windows Azure Educator Grant, you will be able to get a pass through him/her for you coursework. If you are interested in learning more about the Windows Azure platform, we encourage you to share these Educator Grants with your faculty or leverage the FREE 90-day trial offer at http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/free-trial/

    Q: Does my Windows Azure platform academic pass expire?

    A: Yes. The Windows Azure platform academic pass will expire 150 days after it has been activated. You will be receiving email notifications when the expiration date is close, and you will have the opportunity to migrate your data to a paid Windows Azure platform subscription, if you want to continue on using the Windows Azure platform.

    Q: What happens to my data application when my pass expires?

    A: Shortly prior to the expiration date you will have the opportunity to migrate your data to a paid Windows Azure platform subscription. All of your data will be erased when your pass expires. If you choose to not migrate your Windows Azure account to a paid account, please be sure to back up your data.

    Q: Do I have to use a credit card to redeem my pass?

    A: No. You do not need to use a credit card to redeem your pass activate your Windows Azure account.

    Learning Resources:

    Curricula Resources
    Short and interactive learning presentations that provide foundational learning
    Windows Azure - Step by Step Book

    Ideal for those with fundamental programming skills, this tutorial provides practical, learn-by-doing exercises for mastering the entire Windows Azure platform.

    For more details see http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/community/education/program/overview/

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Adding adverts into your Windows 8 and Windows Phone Apps and Games

    • 3 Comments

    One of the most popular questions from Unity Porting Camps http://www.unityportinguk.com has been how can I add ads to my app

    Well we have a number of supported Advertising SDK which are listed at our partner services portal for Windows 8 and Windows Phone development at http://services.windowsstore.com/.

    The Partner portal has links to partners providing the following services for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

    • Advertising
    • Analytics
    • Controls & Frameworks
    • Cross Platform Tools
    • Database
    • Design
    • Developer Tools
    • Gaming Middleware
    • Geolocation
    • Graphics
    • Has Offer
    • Media Services
    • Networking
    • Payments
    • Performance
    • Push Notifications
    • Social Plugins
    • Storage
    • Testing
    • UI Controls
    • User Management

    Here are the available Advertising SDK which support Windows 8 and Windows Phone

  • Scoreoid

    Scoreoid is a real-time marketing platform that powers engagement and monetization. Scoreoid enables brands, studios, publishers and app developers to interact and engage with their users in real-time. "We help you touch your users".

  • AdRotator

    AdRotator is a multi-platform Ad Rotating solution that integrates multiple AdProviders in to a single control and can manage rotation of those ads based on the developers configuration. It also features fallback capabilities to always ensure the app/game always has ads to show.  We also support remote configuration so the developer can alter their Ad Configuration on the fly without re-deploying their app/game or show their own ad to pass in formation to clients.

    Get the New Unity Plug-in!

  • MediaBrix

    MediaBrix powers the industry's leading advertising and services platform for social and mobile games.

  • PreApps

    PreApps.com is the leading platform introducing new mobile apps to user and the marketplace prior to release. Our vision is to build an ecosystem, which connects app developers with app users prior to release to in turn create better quality, more successful apps. Our collaborative process has demonstrated to increase app downloads, enhance app ranking, and overall app quality

    Get the PreApps Featured Feedback app for free!

  • LeadBolt

    FREE CASH TO ADVERTISE YOUR APP! Click Learn More.
    LeadBolt is an award winning mobile app discovery, advertising and monetization network focused on delivering innovative solutions for Windows Phone 8, iOS and Android app developers and now for Windows Store apps.
    Through the largest range of traditional and high-performance ad formats, LeadBolt delivers industry leading results to developers wanting to have their app discovered by users and increase their downloads.

    Get a code for extra $! Click here for more info.

  • Inmobi

    InMobi is the largest independent global mobile ad network and monetization platform with a global reach of over 691 million consumers across 165 countries on our network, we can help you reach your mobile audience anywhere in the world. Our highly skilled mobile experts plus local account managers will be on hand to help you book and optimize your campaign.

  • Microsoft Advertising SDK for Windows Store apps

    Whether you're developing in HTML or XAML, the Microsoft Advertising SDK has made it easy to insert ads into your Windows 8 apps. With a few lines of code, you can quickly get ads being served in your app by following the simple steps outlined in our SDK documentation.

  • AdDuplex

    AdDuplex is a cross-promotion network for Windows Store and Windows Phone apps empowering developers to advertise their apps for free by helping each other.

  • Ads Plug-in for Unity3d

    unity

  • At the Unity camps lots of people are interested in Ad services which provided by a dedicated Unity3d plugin.

  • One of the best I have seen in use is the Unity3D plug-in for AdRotator

  • The AdRotator plug-in enables you to use our Windows and Windows Phone AdRotator solution in Unity3D projects for those platforms and configure how AdRotator works directly from the Unity editor.

  • Using this is simple and goes like this:

    • Download the Unity AdRotator asset from our codeplex site (We will look to publishing it on the Unity3D store at some later date)
    • Add the Asset package to your Unity3D project
    • In the scenes where you want AdRotator displayed, Ad the “AdRotatorManagement” manager game object to your scene (needs to be the top most item in the hierarchy), after installing the asset, this will appear in the game object create menu.
    • Use the inspector to configure how you want AdRotator to display in your scene.
    • Edit the AdRotator configuration files in the Assets / AdRotator folder (there is one for WinPhone and one for Win8 at the moment but we may unify that later) – Note don’t touch any of the other files
    • When your ready, deploy your game to a Windows 8 C#/XAML or Windows Phone 8 project (these are the only two supported options at the moment)
    • Lastly, open your generated solution and ad the V2 AdRotator beta to your project through NuGet and any other Ad Providers you wish to use.
    • **Note, check the readme that comes with the AdRotator NuGet package if you intend to use PubCentre, there is an additional step to pass the reference for PubCentre directly to AdRotator which will be needed.
  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Using Cloud Services to make a Leaderboard for a Unity Game

    • 1 Comments

    As part of the #UnityportingUK http://www.unityportinguk.com one of the most common question we get is how can I take advantage of Azure Cloud Services

    image
    Setting up Azure and Mobile Services

    If you do not have an Azure account, then you should sign up for one.

    image

    The Azure Mobile Services have a free tier that includes up to 500 devices as well as 500k API calls and you can also use the free tier for up to 10 services.  This means that you can test out a few things without having to pay for it.

    Azure Mobile Services

    Azure Mobile Services is a part of Azure that allows access to a database and has connection and sample code to talk to any mobile system that is out there.  This will provide you with the code or library to do the connection to Android, iOS, Windows 8, Windows Phone, HTML5/JavaScript, or even the Xamarin libraries. To get started, if you do not have any Mobile Services defined yet you can click on the Mobile Services tab on the left and then the Create a New Mobile Service link next to it.  You can also click on the New option on the bottom the of the screen and select Compute -> Mobile Service -> Create.

    mobile1

    mobile2

    From here, you will get a popup to fill in to finish up the creation.  The first field is the name of the Mobile Service.  This name will also be the address for the service.  It must be unique. For this example, I named mine “unityleaderboard”.  The next field is the database to use as a back end for the service.  You can choice from “Use an existing SQL database“, “Create a free 20 MB SQL database“, or “Create a new SQL database instance“. 

    createmobile

    The database will now need to be configured.  You need to setup the username and password and also the region for making the database.

    mobiledbsettings

    mobiledbsetup

    Now For Some Data

    So up to now we have the Mobile Service setup, but there is no data yet.  Go into your new Mobile Service and then click on the Data link at the top.  You can now add a new Table to the database that was setup earlier.

    mobiletablesetup

    mobilecreatetable

    The next step is to add the data fields to the new leaderboard table.  This will allow us to save the data for the UserName and the Score that is saved.  This is going to be a basic sample and not an optimized database, so I will be adding the UserName as just a string field to the table.  If this was a bigger system supporting multiple games, I would probably make a Player table with all of the players info there and then a leaderboard table that cross referenced that player table.  Since this is just a quick and simple leaderboard for a single game, keeping the raw text in the table is not that bad.  The Score field is going to be added as a Number so that we do not have to change the numbers of the score into a text field back and forth.  After clicking on the table name, you will see and can click on the Columns link to get to add new columns.  To add a new column, use the Add Column link at the bottom of the page.

    mobilecolumnlistmobileAddScore

    mobileallfields

    At this point the new leaderboard service is up and running.

    unity
    Unity GameDev

    Unity Plugin for Azure by BitRave provides a Mobile Services plugin for Unity 3D. Their GitHub repo includes cross-platform APIs (currently supporting Windows Store and Windows Phone) and example code. 

    bitrave

    Plugin Instructions

    Contents
    Before You Start

    The Azure Mobile Services plugin for Unity 3D is available open source at github.  That’s the place to go if you want to contribute or look at the source.  It’s on github here: https://github.com/bitrave/azure-mobile-services-for-unity3d .  However, if you don’t care about the source, and just use it, head to github as there is an example project with built binaries in it so you can just grab it and use it.

    The below is a guide to using the Azure Mobile Services plugin for Unity 3D.

    Overview

    A suite of Azure Mobile Services plugins for Unity3D, cross platform with common interfaces, with examples.

    The goal is simple. “Just hit build”. That means 1 API, no platform dependent code. The plugin should hide platform intracacies, not surface them.

    Runs across:

    • UnityEditor – Lightweight support in Unity so you don’t need to build to test your app. No more stubbing data locally.
    • Windows 8 Store – Uses the underlying native DLL for consistent and robust integration
    • Windows Phone 8 – Uses the underlying native DLL for consistent and robust integration

    Coming soon:

    • iOS
    • Android
    5 Second Guide

    Put the plugin binaries in your Assets/Plugins folder.  These get built into an Output folder in the root of the solution in the right folder structure.  And it’s as simple as…

    var data = new LevelSaveData() { SaveData = “some data here“, Id = 1 };

    var azure = new AzureMobileServices(_azureEndPoint, _applicationKey);

    azure.Update<LevelSaveData>(data);

    or

    var azure = new AzureMobileServices(_azureEndPoint, _applicationKey);

    azure.Lookup<LevelSaveData>(1, azureResponse =>

    {

    if (azureResponse.Status == AzureResponseStatus.Success)

    {

    var ourObject = azureReponse.ResponseData;

    }

    }

    Data comes back via callbacks and response objects.  Unity doesn’t support await/async, but when it does it will move to that model.

    API
    Initialise

    Initialisation is just as simple as you’d expect.

    var service = new AzureMobileServices(“url”, “token”);

    Insert

    Insert an item into your Azure database in a single line of code from Unity.

    service.Insert<ToDoItem>(myItem);

    Update

    Update items in the Azure databsae with just one line of code from Unity.

    service.Update<ToDoItem>(myItem);

    Delete

    Remove items from the Azure database in 1 line of code from Unity.

    service.Delete<ToDoItem>(myItem);

    Query

    Query items in your Azure Mobile Services from Unity.

    service.Where<ToDoItem>(p => p.Category == “Exercise”, azureResponse =>

    {

    List<ToDoItem> exerciseItems = azureRepsonse.ResponseData;

    NOTE: await / async will be available when supported by Unity.  Until then we are using callbacks.

    Lookup

    Lookup items in your Azure Mobile Services from Unity.

    service.Lookup<ToDoItem>(myItem, azureResponse =>

    {

    ToDoItem myToDoItem = azureResponse.ResponseData;

    NOTE: await / async will be available when supported by Unity.  Until then we are using callbacks.

    Login

    On supported platforms, LoginAsync can be called for authenticated services.

    azure.LoginAsync(AuthenticationProvider.Facebook, loginResponse =>

    {

    var token = loginResponse.ResponseData.MobileServiceAuthenticationToken;

    });

    NOTE: await / async will be available when supported by Unity.  Until then we are using callbacks.

    Visual Studio Solution
    The Projects

    There are multiple projects in the solution.

    • Bitrave.Azure.Editor – This provides Azure support directly from within the Unity Editor, it’s not currently fully featured, but offers a way to test against real data in the cloud rather than stubbed local data.
    • Bitrave.Azure.Stub – This is a stub class for assisting with building projects out of Unity.  It assists with hiding complex dependencies that cause issues with Unity.
    • Bitrave.Azure.Windows8 – The Windows 8 Azure Mobile Services plugin for Unity 3D.
    • Bitrave.Azure.Windows8.TestApp – A test app to help debug the plugin behaviours since the plugins can’t be debugged in Unity 3D.
    • Bitrave.Azure.WindowsPhone8 - The Windows 8 Azure Mobile Services plugin for Unity 3D.
    • Bitrave.Azure.WindowsPhone8.TestApp - A test app to help debug the plugin behaviours since the plugins can’t be debugged in Unity 3D.
    • RestSharp.Stub - This is a stub class that assists with building out of Unity for the specific platforms.
    Building

    Make sure you have the latest version of Nuget, then get the dependencies such as RestSharp, JSON.NET, and Azure Mobile Services.  You will need to also add a reference to the UnityEngine.dll for the respective platform.  If you can’t find these UnityEngine DLLs, just build out of Unity a blank WP8 project or a blank W8 project, and the respective DLLs will end up in the generated project.  If you want to use the PM command line for Azure, here it is:

    Install-Package WindowsAzure.MobileServices

    Once you have the DLLs all configured, hit build.

    Once built your solution directory should have an output folder.  Within this is a Plugins folder structure with DLLs that you copy directly into your Unity project’s Assets folder.  It should look something like this:

    c:\Projects\MyGame\Assets\Plugins\

    c:\Projects\MyGame\Assets\Plugins\Metro\

    c:\Projects\MyGame\Assets\Plugins\WP8\

    When you build for a specific platform, the plugins from the root Plugins folder get replaced by DLLs with identical names in the platform folder.  This is why the RestSharp.Stub gets copied into WP8 and Metro since it’s only used for the Unity editor.  Metro and WP8 leverage the Azure Mobile Services SDK DLLs for their specific platform.

    The Windows8 DLL gets copied into the Plugins/Metro folder since Windows 8 projects build nicely out of Unity.

    The WindowsPhone8 DLL does not get copied into Plugins/WP8.  The Bitrave.Azure.Stub DLL gets copied due to dependency issues when building.  WP8 builds are still in early beta so this need may go away.

    Next step, make sure you copy the right versions of Newtonsoft.Json DLL into the Plugins, Plugins\Metro, and Plugins\WP8 folders.  Also copy RestSharp into the Plugins folder.   It should look something like this:

    pllugin_folders

    And that’s how you get everything into Unity, and you should be good to start using it.  How to build for each platform is below.

    Building For Platforms
    Windows 8 Store Apps
    1. From Unity
    2. Select File->Build Settings (Ctrl-Shift-B)
    3. Select “Windows Store Apps”
    4. Select “Build”
    5. Pick a folder to build into
    6. Wait for it to build
    7. Open the generated solution in Visual Studio
    8. Check the references to the project, we’ll need to update some references.
    9. Remove RestSharp from the references
    10. Remove Boo.Lang.dll if it is there, it won’t pass WACK
    11. Make sure that Newtonsoft.Json.dll is the right version for Windows 8
    12. Open up Package.appxmanifest.  Ensure Capabilities->Internet Client is enabled
    13. Manage Nuget packages for the project, add the Windows Azure Mobile Services SDK
    14. You should be good to go!
    15. Build and Run
    Windows Phone 8 Apps
    1. From Unity
    2. Select File->Build Settings (Ctrl-Shift-B)
    3. Select “Windows Phone 8″
    4. Select “Build”
    5. Pick a folder to build into
    6. Wait for it to build
    7. Open the generated solution in Visual Studio
    8. Check the references to the project, we’ll need to update some references
    9. Remove Bitrave.Azure and add a reference to the Bitrave.Azure.WindowsPhone8 project’s Bitrave.Azure.dll in it’s bin/Release folder.
    10. Remove RestSharp.dll, it’s not needed
    11. Manage Nuget packages for the project, add the Windows Azure Mobile Services SDK
    12. You should be good to go!
    13. Build and Run
    14. PS – You need to deploy to a WP8 phone

    Creating a simply 2D Unity Game

    When Unity is launched, a dialog pops up with two tabs Open Project and Create New Project.  Select the Create New Project tab and enter in a name for the project.  In the bottom left of the dialog, there is a dropdown for selecting 3D or 2D for the project.  Select 2D and then hit the Create button to make the project.

    unitysetup

    unitydefault

    In the project pane, there is a folder names Assets. Create three folders, Plugins, Scenes, and Scripts.  This creates these folders under the Asset folder in the project’s folder.

    mobileunityorganize

    Saving the Scene

    One thing that helps at this point is to manually save the scene.  Select the File -> Save Scene menu option and then select the Scenes folder and save the scene, for this tutorial I named it MainScene.  This will create a MainScene.unity file in the Scenes folder.

    mobilesavescene

    Adding the Plugin

    Next, let’s take the plugin from the GitHub repro and take all of the files from the Asset folder in the AzureMobileServicesUniversalPlugin project and save them into the same folder as our scene. 

    mobilesaveplugin

    From here we will follow the second instruction line and drag the AzureUI script file onto the Main Camera object to attach the script.  From here we are going to be making some changes to this script to remove the Facebook login and to point it at the new leaderboard service that we made earlier.  At this point the project will not compile or run because we are missing the Newtonsoft Json.Net DLL.

    JSON Library

    As I said above, the plugin from Bit Rave suggests getting a Json library from the asset store. 

    Leaderboard Class

    The sample from BitRave is great but it just ties to the standard sample ToDo list that mobile services will make for you to test with.

    I would suggest the following to make a more robust leaderboard, the suggestion is have a leaderboard table getting called and used.  In the Scripts folder, you will see a ToDoItem.cs script file with the following class defined.
    TodoScript
    In the Scripts folder, right click and go to Create -> C# Script and name it LeaderBoard.  This will create a new class that is derived from MonoBehavior.  This is the default for any script that is added.  What we can do here is to delete the class and actually just make one for our leaderboard table that is in our Mobile Service.  Originally in Mobile Services the tables had an Id field of an int.  The current system makes the Id field a string instead.  To fit into the sample from BitRave, I am also going to create a ToString method for the class to use for displaying. So creating a class for our leaderboard will give us a class that looks like this.  Please keep in mind that the name of the class should match the name of your table.

    mobileleaderboarditem

    AzureUI.cs

    This is the file that is doing all of the GUI in this sample game and also calling the leaderboard service.

    So what is the experience?

    The free version of Azure mobile Services can get you going on a simple service.  It is limited to the number of devices and number of transactions per month, but when you hit those limited you should be able to move the service up to the next level for more resources and abilities. Another option is using a dedicated third party gaming services such as http://www.gamesparks.com/ who offer a free services for FREE services for  upto 10,000 user per month

    image

    Other Resources

    Stacey Mulcahy, making a leaderboard using Azure Mobile Services.  She showed how to add the leaderboard to your HTML5/JS game.   

    Steve Maier Azure Mobile Services to make a Leaderboard for a Unity Game Steve shows how to create a leaderboard in Unity  

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Design tips for Windows 8.1 apps

    • 2 Comments

    This week I have been at Campus Party in the TheO2 which is pretty specular location for any event. During the week I have been discussing apps and game development with 1000s of students. One of the most popular questions I have had was what are the to main 8.1 changes? This lead into lots of discussions around  the fact that the snap view is optional and the default view is 500px.  The fact that there are 2 more tiles sizes, and the search capability is in app search and much smarter and finally there are a number of new controls.

    So here a quick summary of all the facts and resources if you have questions about any of the above.   

    Windows 8.1

    · Windows 8.1 Preview http://windows.microsoft.com/preview

    · Windows 8.1 Feature Guide http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/windows/apps/bg182410

    · Windows 8.1 UX/UI http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/bg182890.aspx

    · Windows 8 UX Design Jump Start (MVA) http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/windows-8-ux-design-jump-start

    · For further design information http://design.windows.com

    //build/ Sessions

    Some useful sessions to watch from Build.

    · Designing and Building User Interfaces for Windows - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/2-168

    · Upgrading Windows 8 Apps to Windows 8.1 - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/3-077

    · Beautiful Apps at Any Size on Any Screen - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/2-150

    · What's New in XAML - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/2-164

    · What's New in WinJS - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/2-165

    · Building Apps that Work Together - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/2-010

    · Building Apps That Integrate with People and Events - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/3-007

    · Design and Build a Great Search Experience in Your App - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/3-144

    · Alive with Activity: Tiles, Notifications, and Background Tasks - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/3-159

    · Monetization Opportunities for Windows Store Apps in Windows 8.1 - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/3-121

    · First Impressions Matter: Delighting Your User from the Moment They Click “Buy" - http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2013/2-095

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