January, 2013 - Microsoft UK Faculty Connection - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

January, 2013


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

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



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


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


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

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

    Give it a try today!

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

    F# communities make it easy to get involved:

    Why F# in Education

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Rapid2D C++ DirectX 11.1 Educational Gaming engine for Windows 8



    Rapid2D is the only game engine that is specifically designed to produce Windows 8

    The following Tutorials are available

    There will be 9 templates each with a basic description released at: http://www.rapid2d.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=46

    There is an editor and a scripting manual on the download page of rapid2d: http://www.rapid2d.com/downloads.html  


    Rapid2D  will be doing lots more tutorials in both worksheet and video form in the near future and have released an amazing competition where you can WIN £10,000!

    The Rapid2D £10,000 Competition is now open. To find out more click here, and to enter click here.

    If you have already entered, you can login to your team area here.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    .NET Gadgeteer in Education


    Design and build your own electronic devices http://www.gadgeteering.net

    NET Gadgeteer is a platform for creating your own electronic devices using a wide variety of hardware modules and a powerful programming environment. Students with little or no electronics background can design and build devices that sense and react to their environments using components such as switches, displays, buzzers, sensors and more. Using cables these various modules are plugged into a mainboard which is programmed to make everything work together. Devices can be programmed using Visual Basic or Visual C#.


    How to learn .NET Gadgeteer

    .NET Gadgeteer can be incorporated into the teaching of programming at GCSE and A-Level, or introduced in extra-curricular clubs at KS3. Teaching materials for .NET Gadgeteer are available at http://www.gadgeteering.net

    These are structured around key programming principles including selection, iteration, arrays and file handling, so that students can learn all the key concepts they need whilst having fun!

    What to buy

    .NET Gadgeteer is open source hardware that is available from a number of manufacturers. For our Visual Basic teaching materials one suggestion is to buy a Fez Hydra kit, and also a small display, SD Card module and button. However other mainboards can be used just as well. Gadgeteer components are available from the following manufacturers/suppliers: GHI Electronics, Love Electronics, SyTech, Proto-Pic, Cool Components and Mouser Electronics, amongst others. Students can work in groups of four to build a Gadgeteer project.

    How students benefit

    .NET Gadgeteer is a motivating environment for teaching programming and is ideal for collaborative projects, where students share out tasks and work together to build a device of their own invention. Crucially, it also gives them a better understanding of how the devices and technology all around them work, as well as the skills to create their own.

    Heading to BETT http://www.bettshow.com

    NET Gadgeteer can offer exciting possibilities for teaching computer programming, electronics and computer-aided design. Once the device is built and programmed, a housing can be built for the device to enable ease of use, which also helps students to learn about human-computer interaction.

    If your attending BETT See .NET Gadgeteer in action at the AQA stand and for more information contact: Dr Sue Sentance, Schools outreach for .NET Gadgeteer, E-mail: sue.sentance@anglia.ac.uk, http://www.gadgeteering.net

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Phone SDK Update for Windows Phone 7.8


    Windows Phone

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

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

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



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

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

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

    Live Tile options when running on Windows Phone 7.8

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

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

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

    Additional links for more information

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

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


    Windows Phone SDK Update for Windows Phone 7.8

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Rapid2D.com C++/DX Game Framework Launches £10,000 Windows 8 Game Dev Competition!


    Rapid2DLogo Win8_logo

    Rapid2d.com C++/DirectX 11.1 Game Engine launches an awesome competition for students, startups and indie developers with a grand prize of £10,000

    But that’s not all; there will also be runners up prizes of Xbox 360 consoles and bundles taking the total prize fund way beyond £10,000

    Rapid2D, the Game Engine launched at the Evolve Conference, designed specifically for developing on Windows 8, has teamed up with industry sponsor Microsoft Corp. to launch an app competition with a first prize of £10,000.

    Aimed at start-ups and student studios, while being open to anyone to enter, teams will be required to submit apps to the Windows Store. The judging will be based on overall app quality submitted by a studio/team.

    Myra Smallman, of Rapid2D, also announced, “To create a level playing field for those who are just starting out in the industry, Rapid2D has produced a range of templates for use with our exciting new engine, all available for free to competition entrants.”

    Anand Krishnan, Senior Director, Developer and Platform Group, Microsoft UK, added, “We are proud to support and sponsor this amazing initiative. It offers opportunities for hobby builders, students and startups to bring their ideas to life. We are excited to see what the next generation of developers, designers, artists and coders can do with the Rapid2D game engine.”

    The competition will launch at 15.00pm (UK) on Wednesday 23rd January 2013 via the Rapid2D web site. The first of the 10 templates will also be made available at the same time as will the latest version of the Rapid2D engine, Rapid2D V1.2.

    Registration via the Rapid2D website also opens 23rd January. The closing date for the collections of apps being published is 2nd April 2013. All Apps which are to be considered for the competition must be submitted to the Windows Store for approval by 12 midnight on 2nd April 2013.

    Rapid2d can be downloaded www.rapid2d.com

    Please Note 

    It is not a prerequisite of entry to use the Rapid2D engine – entrants can develop a Windows 8 game with any language or middleware platform, whilst we recommend the Rapid 2D engine to utilize the templates and accelerate the game app development.
    Individuals can enter, but obviously teams can share the demanding workload
    Full terms and conditions available via www.rapid2d.com however entry is restricted to the UK.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Phone NFC training from Nokia Developer Programme



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

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

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

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


    Lumia App Lab: Develop NFC apps in Windows Phone 8

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

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

    Click Here to Register


    Lumia App Lab: Develop NFC apps in Windows Phone 8

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

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

    Click Here to Register




  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Educators TouchDevelop Hackathon 28th and 29th of Jan 2013




    Microsoft Partners in Learning have brought together some of the most inspirational teachers for a dedicated TouchDevelop hackathon.

    The educators who are all part of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network recently took part in 3 Virtual Universities course based around the TouchDevelop platform and had to submit a mock-up of a TouchDevelop App.

    21 outstanding Educators will now participate in the Partners in Learning Appathon taking place in London on January 28th and 29th, 2013.

    The Apps are based on TouchDevelop so will support Windows 8 as well as Windows Phone. After an extensive review process, we selected 21 educators to Microsoft London Office on January 28th and 29th, 2013 (as part of the  BETT Show). The purpose of the Appathon is for the academics to build their app further with the help of experts who will be there to support the group. The selection was based on the innovation of the idea and the feasibility of the idea coming to life.

    One of the academics attending is David Renton, David recently produced a guest blog see http://blogs.msdn.com/b/uk_faculty_connection/archive/2012/12/13/touchdevelop-making-apps-for-mobile-devices-on-mobile-devices.aspx

    Following the 24 hours, each educator will be expected to present their app on January 29th. I am thrilled to be part of the final Judging/evaluation committee and via a voting process we will select the winner.

    A huge congratulation to all the UK Academics who are taking part in the Partners in Learning network and we appreciate the time you took to participate in the Virtual Universities, complete homework and submit mock ups. We admire your initiative, drive and are excited to be a part of your journey in creating an environment of innovation in education using information and communications technology.

    Can’t wait to see the lucky 21 in London at the finals!

    Interested in learning more about TouchDevelop 

    You can play directly with TouchDevelop on your Windows Phone FREE APP or more appealing to schools you simply go to www.touchdevelop.com and run the IDE in the browser you can also build Windows 8 Store app from TouchDevelop on any platform.

    We have a some really inspirational educators in the UK using TouchDevelop in the curricula and for after school clubs. With the release of a browser version of TouchDevelop we have lots of interest from schools as they can effectively use any device with a web browser. So Windows Surface, iPads and Andriod devices are all fully supported.

    Microsoft has also produced and released a full FREE curricula for teaching TouchDevelop which is available at http://www.microsoft.com/faculty

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Games@Derby Expo – University of Derby


    Guest blog by Dr Tommy Thompson. University of Derby

    university-of-derby image

    I’m Dr Tommy Thompson, a lecturer at the University of Derby. Since completing my undergraduate degree in Computer Science back in 2004, I have worked as a commercial software developer for a variety of companies while pursuing a career in research; completing an MSc in Artificial Intelligence in 2006 from the University of Edinburgh and a Ph.D in AI applied to games from the University of Strathclyde in 2010.

    I’m the Programme Leader for the BSc in Computer Games Programming at the University of Derby and teach our introductory modules in C# and XNA as well as our final year module in AI for games .

    The University of Derby recently moved to a 20-credit system and we saw an opportunity to shake-up our curriculum to do something new. This resulted in our new Game Development module, where our students in the Computer Games Programming degree would be working alongside their peers in the BSc in Computer Game Modelling and Animation. The remit of the module was simple; construct a game-concept you could present to a publisher within 12 weeks. We constrained the games to revolve around concepts of ‘Zombies’ and ‘time’, which resulted in a range of games that were completely unique. It was our intent to put students through the creative processes of commercial game development but within a severely protracted timeframe.

    The tools and technology used was driven entirely by the students. We are one of the few UK institutions to have both Windows 7 and 8 running on our systems and we provide a range of tools such as Visual Studio and Unreal Development Kit to our programming students on these builds. Given our students intent to develop games that can subsequently be released to a larger audience, it makes sense to start working on Windows systems, which hold the largest market share in PC gaming.

    2 4 5 7

    The teaching of the module was a relatively smooth process; we left many of the technical challenges in the hands of the students, but guided them through key milestones of development such as concept art and documentation, creating their alpha build, testing for quality and refining the mechanics to ensure the fun factor shone through. My colleagues Minsi Chen and Jon Pledger were instrumental in bringing this about and their prior experience from working with large studios in the AAA industry proved vital.   

    Win8_logo SurfaceRt

    Our teaching team have been very vocal about transitioning to Windows 8 on our lab machines and subsequently integrating it into our teaching curriculum. We feel it’s crucial our students across all years are aware of the paradigm shift that is occurring in Microsoft technologies. Thankfully the school management have been very receptive and it has been a very smooth transition.

    The main focus of the Game Development module is to produce high-quality portfolio material. At this stage of their academic career it is crucial that they present some work that is a reflection of their technical ability. Having our students showcase this work as part of the Games@Derby expo aids them not only in presenting their work publically, but ensuring they place greater attention to detail and quality in their work. Meanwhile, our CGP students were working on more portfolio material with my colleague Wayne Rippin to develop Windows 8 apps in our Systems Programming module.

    team1 team2 team3 team4

    We’re hoping to show off this work at our next Games@Derby event running on 8th February.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Using DirectXMath with Direct3D



    The DirectXMath API provides SIMD-friendly C++ types and functions for common linear algebra and graphics math operations common to DirectX applications. The library provides optimized versions for Windows 32-bit (x86), Windows 64-bit (x64), and Windows RT through SSE2 and ARM-NEON intrinsic support in the Visual Studio compiler.

    The Windows SDK for Windows 8 ships with the DirectXMath library which is the next major revision of the C++ SIMD graphics math library known as “XNAMath” in the DirectX SDK and Xbox 360 XDK.

    The DirectXMath Programming Guide on MSDN provides full detail on What’s New in the library, and a Code Migration guide for current users of XNAMath. For developers using DirectXMath for the first time, the Getting Started page has been expanded to provide more basic usage information.

    DirectXMath provides a math solution optimized for Windows for more indepth details please see DirectXMath Programming Guide and reference material for the DirectXMath Library DirectXMath Programming Reference

    The DirectXMath library is designed for C++ developers working on games and DirectX graphics in Windows Store apps and traditional desktop apps for Windows 8 and later. For more details see the DirectXMath Programming Guide section on “Using DirectXMath with Direct3D” <http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/ff729728(v=vs.85).aspx>

    Here are some DirectXMath links you might want to take a look at as well




  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    December Construct2 Windows 8 HTML5 games competition results


    In December we announced a number of competitions in partnership with various middleware vendors, the aim of the competition was to simply design, develop and publish a Windows 8 game using one of the various middleware technologies.

    I am happy to confirm the winners! of the Scirra Construct2 competition:

    10th place: Fireflies

    Fireflies screenshot

    Fireflies by Richard Kesuma. Well done, you win an XBox 360 games bundle and the coveted Flying Monkey!

    9th place: Saloon Madness

    Saloon Madness screenshot

    Saloon Madness by Aditya Anwar T. Well done, you win an XBox 360 games bundle!

    8th place: Maru Toy Catch

    Maru Toy Catch screenshot

    Maru Toy Catch by Vito Budiman Jr. Well done, you win an XBox 360 games bundle!

    7th place: Telebeanies

    Telebeanies screenshot

    Telebeanies by Febndy Kwik. Well done, you win an XBox 360 games bundle!

    6th place: R.U.Nuts

    R.U.Nuts screenshot

    R.U.Nuts by Olivier Saighi. Well done, you win an XBox 360 games bundle!

    5th place: Nutty Run

    Nutty Run screenshot

    Nutty Run by Ben Ward & Stan Ruzmetov. Well done, you win a Construct 2 Personal license and XBox 360 games bundle!

    4th place: Blast 'em All

    Blast 'em All screenshot

    Blast 'em All by Anthony Wijaya. Well done, you win a Construct 2 Personal license and XBox 360 games bundle!

    3rd place: Vartun's Pillar

    Vartun's Pillar screenshot

    Vartun's Pillar by Braycen Jackwitz. A nicely designed retro style adventure game. Congratulations, you win a Construct 2 Personal license and XBox 360 games bundle!

    2nd place: Neon Galaxy

    Neon Galaxy screenshot

    Neon Galaxy by Joe Chang. An engaging and fast-paced neo-retro action game with lots of bright visuals, enemies, powerups, explosions and lighting effects. Congratulations, you win a Nokia Lumia 920 and a Construct 2 Business license!

    1st place: Mortar Melon

    Mortar Melon screenshot

    Mortar Melon by Daniel Da Rocha & Henry Hoffman. This is a very well designed physics-based puzzler with beautiful artwork and atmospherics, a carefully tuned learning curve, and enough fruit to run a smoothie shop. Congratulations, you win a Windows 8 tablet, a Nokia Lumia 920 and a Construct 2 Business license!

    Well done!

    Congratulations to all our winners! We will be in touch shortly to arrange delivery of your prizes. And thank you to everyone who entered - we were delighted to receive an amazing number of entries.

    We hope you all enjoyed making your games and getting published to the Windows 8 Store and look forwards to seeing what you all make in future!

    New Competition

    If your entering this years Global Game Jam in the UK then enter your Windows 8 game into the following competition to win some awesome prizes http://www.ubelly.com/global-game-jam/ you can build your Windows 8 game using any middleware, toolkits or languages and the more games you enter the greater the chance of winning.

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