• Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows 8 are you ready?

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    AreyouReady

    On Friday 26th October Windows 8 students and all consumers will have the opportunity to purchase Windows 8 and new Windows 8 PC’s. So the statement of ‘Post PC era’ may be killed overnight by a wide array of amazing new devices. If you are teaching development, gaming or architecture Windows 8 has a number of major changes.

    So if your building an app for Windows 8 – or porting your existing app across – then make sure you get up to speed and attend one of our FREE camps and events.

    Here’s a short ‘trailer’ on why you should be part of the Windows 8 journey…

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    GameSalad announces support for Windows 8

    • 1 Comments

    gamesalad

     

    GameSalad are another game creation company who has confirmed support for Windows 8 App Store publishing via GameSalad Creator Pro.

    Once GameSalad Creator for Windows 8 is released, you will find a new "Windows 8" publishing target integrated directly into the web publishing flow, allowing you to quickly and easily publish any previously developed game or application to the Windows 8 Store.

     

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    GameSalad and Microsoft will be hosting a joint webinar for any developer (basic or pro users) interested in Windows 8 Store publishing on Friday, September 28th at 1:00PM CST. Please register here: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/452117663  - Introduction to the Windows Store.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    So what is so exciting about the gaming opportunity for Microsoft now within Education

    • 0 Comments

     

    Students now have lots of options when it comes to language, framework and tools for creating their projects and assessments and this is now true for developing a game for Windows 8.

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    GenerationApp provides design and technical consultations, video tutorials and technical articles that will help you each step of the way to getting your app in the store. We are here to help you take full advantage of this lucrative opportunity.

     

    You can download a evaluation version of Windows 8 below

    Download Windows 8

    Downloads Visual Studio 2012

     

    Or if you have a DreamSpark Premium account you can download the fill version of Windows 8 and Visual Studio for FREE

     

    C# Developers

    Unity
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    Unity announced support for Windows 8 at their annual Unite conference. We are all waiting for more details to emerge but in the mean time lets learn a little about Unity.

    Unity is a game development tool that has been designed to let you focus on creating amazing 3D games. Unity supports three scripting languages: JavaScript, C# (Mono), and a dialect of Python named Boo. All three are equally fast and can interoperate. All three can make use of cross platform .NET libraries from Xamarin which support databases, regular expressions, XML, networking and so on.

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    MonoGame
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    MonoGame is an Open Source implementation of the Microsoft XNA 4 Framework. MonoGame allows XNA developers on Windows & Windows Phone to port their games to the iOS, Android and now Windows 8. Using MonoGame for Windows 8 you can take your XNA code and with a recompile along with some additional code to support store requirements create a game for the Windows 8 store. ARMED! which is currently available for downloads from the Windows 8 Store is a great example of what is possible using MonoGame.

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    Follow this 3 part blog series on MonoGame that takes you step by step through the process from getting your development environment setup to getting your game Windows 8 Store Ready.

    XAML/C#
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    If your skills are based in XAML and C#, you have a great set of tools to create casual 2D games from scratch using Visual Studio and Blend. You can easily apply animations to text, images and shapes on the screen using the built in animation tool.

    The animations you define can modify any of the objects attributes overtime including position to create movement, transparency to make things appear and disappear and skew to change the shape and so on.

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    HTML5/JS Developers

    HTML5/JS using Canvas   

    The HTML5 canvas is great for creating games. In a game you generate or display graphics in real time and then change them at regular intervals based on user interaction or through physical properties that you encode into the logic.

    Dave Isbitski has a great video post on the basics around creating a casual 2D game using HTML5/JS and the Canvas element. If you have HTML5/JS skills then you have what it takes to create basic games that draw  and animate sprites, keep score and play sound.

    Cut the Rope was the first example of an HTML5/JS game ported to Windows 8. Download the game and try it out.

     

    More great content from Dave

    Getting Started with JavaScript Game Development on Windows 8

    GameMaker
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    YoYo Games, a Scottish startup based in Dundee announced that GameMaker: Studio, its cross-platform games development environment, will support Microsoft Corp.’s launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. GameMaker: Studio allows developers to create games in a single code base and then easily export with one button click and run them natively on multiple formats including HTML5, Facebook, Android, iOS, Windows and OS X. GameMaker: Studio for Windows 8 will be available for developers prior to October 26 while GameMaker: Studio for Windows Phone 8 will be available following device availability later this year.

    CreateJS
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    Frameworks are incredibly useful as they supply the infrastructure, scaffolding and utilities that most programs require and they shorten he development lifecycle considerably. For HTML5 game development you may want to consider CreateJS. For an example of the power of CreateJS check out the Atari developer site to see what GSkinner.com, Atari and Microsoft have reimagined using CreateJS.

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    CreateJS is a suite of modular libraries and tools which work together to enable rich interactive content on open web technologies via HTML5. These libraries are designed to work completely independently, or mixed and matched to suit your needs. The CreateJS Suite is comprised of: EaselJS, TweenJS, SoundJS, PreloadJS, and Zoë. 

    Here is a short overview of each of the libraries that compromise CreateJS:

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    EaselJS provides straight forward solutions for working with rich graphics and interactivity with HTML5 Canvas. It provides an API that is familiar to Flash developers, but embraces Javascript sensibilities. It consists of a full, hierarchical display list, a core interaction model, and helper classes to make working with Canvas much easier

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    TweenJS is a simple tweening library for use in Javascript. It was developed to integrate well with the EaselJS library, but is not dependent on or specific to it. It supports tweening of both numeric object properties & CSS style properties. The API is simple but very powerful, making it easy to create complex tweens by chaining commands

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    Consistant cross-browser support for audio is currently a mess in HTML5, but SoundJS works to abstract away the problems and makes adding sound to your games or rich experiences much easier. You can query for capabilities, then specify and prioritize what APIs, plugins, and features are leveraged for specific devices or browsers.

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    PreloadJS makes it easy to preload your assets: images, sounds, JS, data, or others. It uses XHR2 to provide real progress information when available, or fall back to tag loading and eased progress when it isn’t. It allows multiple queues, multiple connections, pausing queues, and a lot more.

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    Zoë is an AIR application that converts SWF animations to sprite sheets. Simply drag a SWF onto the application, and Zoë will automatically detect the required dimensions for the images in your sprite sheet, maintain any frame labels present in your SWF (for controlling playback), and export a sprite sheet. Other advanced features are also included.

    Visit the CreateJS website for more information and to download the libraries.

    Chris Bowen has written an excellent 4 part tutorial on how to create a 2D casual game using CreateJS. He takes an XNA/C# tutorial called Catapult Wars and ports the game to Windows 8 using Create/JS.

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    ImpactJS
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    ImpactJS is a JavaScript Game Engine that allows you to develop cross platform/browser HTML5 Games. The Impact developer license costs $99 and includes:


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    Jesse Freeman
    , well known for his blog, conference appearances and book on HTML5 Game Development, has recently joined Microsoft as a Technical Evangelist based in NYC. His book on developing HTML5 games using ImpactJS is available on Amazon.
    Jesse writes on his experience in using ImpactJS for game development on Windows 8 in this blog post.

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    Construct 2 from Scirra
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    Construct 2 is a ground breaking HTML5 game engine from Scirra a UK based start up located in London. It lets anyone make games - without any programming experience.
    Construct 2 is suitable for people who:

    • Want to start making their own games
    • Want to make production quality games
    • Want to rapidly prototype new games
    • Want to move on from old tech like Flash

    Construct 2 is available at 3 price points:

    1. Free – £0
    2. Personal – £79
    3. Professional – £259

    The Free edition has a limited number of sound effects and events and is useful in evaluating the product. The Personal edition is for individual developers. The Professional is for development teams. Those editions do not have any limitations.


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    Construct 2 supports building games for Windows 8. There is a great tutorial that can help you get started here.

    C++ Developers

    DirectX
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    C++ and DirectX development offers the greatest power to developers. A DirectX app typically combines programming logic, the DirectX API, and High Level Shading Language (HLSL) programs, together with audio and 3-D visual assets to present a rich, interactive multimedia experience. Visual Studio includes tools that you can use to work with images and textures, 3-D models, and shaders without leaving the IDE to use another tool.

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    Epic Games Unreal Engine 3
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    Unreal Engine 3 is under the hood of many of the best computer and video games. From entertainment software to training simulations, the Unreal Engine provides the platform and tools needed to develop cutting-edge 3D projects.

    Epic recently announced the availability of the Unreal Engine 3 for Windows 8 Game development. From the press release:

    Epic Games, Inc., in collaboration with NVIDIA, today presented the first public demonstration of Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) running on Windows 8 and Windows RT during Asus’ press conference at the IFA 2012 electronics trade show in Berlin.

    While this is not an exhaustive list, I hope that it gives you a sense of the breadth of support for languages, tools and frameworks available to all developers wishing to take advantage of the huge opportunity that game development offers on Windows 8.

    Rapid2D C++ Framework

    Rapid2DLogo

    Rapid2D is the only Game Engine that has been specifically designed for the production of Windows 8 Apps. The Rapid2D engine can be used to produce apps for Windows 8 PC, Tablet and Windows Phone 8.

    Rapid2D has a unique GUI interface that makes games production fast and accessible to both the experienced and novice developer. Rapid2D is designed to be intuitive allowing the fast production of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 applications. The engine uses the widely uses C++ for scripting.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    UNversity at the University of West of Scotland

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    UNversity is not a Game Jam – the goal is in the process, what you learn in the journey, not in the product. To re-iterate, UNversity 2012 opened with the following rules and outline:

    Pick a summer project (or two) and do it over the summer vacation period.

    Students had to Post regular updates  to keep peers informed on progress and to document their learning

    So if students were doing extra an online class at coursera.com, making a game on their own or with others, re-doing a previous coursework as a personal revision exercise.

    Rules:
    1. Pick something to do, and tell us what it is
    2. Let us know how you are getting on
    3. There is no rule #3
    4. Ask folk for help when you get stuck, and provide advice when you can     

    This was about as open as possible in terms of objectives as it could be, and the range of projects was appropriately broad. Just about everyone involved focused on programming from the ground up – rather than using existing engines, and most people were also working with ‘programmer art’. So not much chance of winning a Game Jam beauty contest for most entries… at the beginning of this post I said that UNversity is about the process, not the product. It is about creating a community, where people can pick their own priorities, their own projects but still help each other and have a place to turn to when help is needed.  In this, it worked for some at least.. 

    As one of the students, Kieran noted on his round-up:

    I’ve really enjoyed UNversity this year! … I’ve been very involved helping people with C++ problems and other issues in general. Think it’s one of the best parts of the year to be honest. Lets hope it continues!

    'Projects' ranged from one student completing online courses that are probably equivalent to an extra semester of university, to students who worked on one or more game projects that ended in varying stages of completion. But although it was the learning that counted, rather than the product, at the product end, Kieran has been producing the Android port of Wordtrick for Outplay, David released a simple invaders clone on the windows phone marketplace, Bryan produced an online Java game evolved from Asteroids.

    Stephen McGroarty the runner up, winning a Microsoft Kinect

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    and the winner Neil Finlay receiving a Nokia Lumina

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    Entering UNversity gives students a early exposure to an array of opportunities and to undertake extra curricula learning or research into technologies or processes that will help students gain further insights and experiences.

    UNversity simply gives students a chance to show off their abilities and stand out from the crowd, something that's really important in an increasingly crowded graduate job market. It's a great addition to your CV and should be a lot of fun too.

    Microsoft is delighted to be supporting UNversity in the form of prize sponsorship and are very pleased with the response we have had from the University of West of Scotland and its students. All Game Studios appreciate competition such as www.imaginecup.com and initiatives such as UNversity as a means of identifying talented individuals. While they also help to create another line of communication between developers and academia. This type of contact between universities and games developers is vital if we hope to increase the quality and quantity of graduate entering in industry. Many of 2012's participants were extremely strong, with a large number having gone on to secure roles in the UK games industry as a result of their participation.

    So here is looking forward to UNversity 2013

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    How Xamarin is supporting students building great portfolios

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    clip_image002

    Xamarin enables developers to build fully native iOS and Android apps in C# that can share code with Windows apps. Through code re-use and sharing, and by unifying mobile app development in C#, Xamarin makes it possible to deliver gorgeous, performant, native apps for all major device platforms quickly.

    Developer Ecosystem Impact

    This means the millions of existing .NET developers can succeed in a heterogeneous device world.

    IOS and Android developers have a path to cross-platform success and to Windows 8. And for XNA developers, our support of the MonoGame project and community makes it possible for them to get their games to Windows 8 and other device platforms.

    Learn more about Xamarin

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Xamarin now supports Azure Services

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    clip_image002

    Xamarin is partnering with Windows Azure Mobile Services to expand the Mobile Services SDK to iOS and Android platforms. Xamarin products empower more than 175,000 developers to write native apps for iOS and Android—all in C#.

    Mobile Services and Xamarin share a common goal: freeing developers to focus on what really matters.  Mobile Services reduces the friction of configuring a scalable and secure backend and lets mobile app developers focus on delivering a fantastic user experience.  Xamarin allows mobile app developers to make the most of C#, and enables mobile developers to support more devices with less code.

    For tutorials and more information on how to get started, please visit the Xamarin blog and developer center.

    http://blog.xamarin.com/2012/09/20/xamarin-partners-with-microsoft-to-support-azure-mobile-services-on-android-and-ios/

    The announcement on the Azure team blog:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/windowsazure/archive/2012/09/20/announcing-open-sourcing-of-windows-azure-mobile-services-sdk-on-github-and-partnership-with-xamarin.aspx

    We're pretty excited about this one, as it means that C# developers can use the same code to access Azure services from iOS, Android, or Windows.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    BAFTA and Abertay combine to produce Unity schools bundle

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    ygd_logo unity-140 games_unpacked

    This excellent package by Dundee’s Abertay University and sponsored by BAFTA is an excellent way to get young children interested in game development at school.

    As Unity continues to bring game development to the masses, its great to see that someone is considering the needs of younger users. Titled Games Unpacked, the bundle of Unity assets is designed as a series of ready made game modules that users can piece together to make simple game play.

    The BAFTA website provides a tutorial and links to all the assets you need to get started with game development.

    The pack was demoed at this years Dare to be Digital Proto Play event.

    This is a highly useful tool to get younger students involved with game development.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    UK Students are record breakers

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    clip_image013T2G-Logo3

    Congratulations to the University of Bedfordshire and the students of the University and Train2Game who secured the Guinness World Record for the Largest GameJam in a Single Location. 

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    The old record was held by Norway at 292 game designers and we were counted at 299.  It was tighter than we hoped as we say a few of the students drop out but we got there!  All the Win8 games developed had to be playable and the Guinness World Record adjudicator made sure each of them.

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    The winners - The winning team (Retro Metro) won a number of Xbox prizes, a Nokia phone and a VIP trip to Rare studios in December as well as being invited to an exclusive event where Steve Ballmer will meet with them and selected group of Windows 8 developers.

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    42 Teams of Game Designers each developing a game from 7pm on Friday to 6pm on Sunday.  1 X Win8 game per team around the theme of “Pride of London”

    42 playable games which will now be worked on to publish them into the Win8 Store by the students as part of their curricula module.

     

    Press interest

    BBC

    BBC LINK

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    GameathonUK – Windows 8 World Record Attempt

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    T2G-Logo3

    1106.Guinness_5F00_thumb_5F00_6CD520EB[1]

    This weekend were collaborating with online blended learning service Train2Game and the University of Bedfordshire to set the world record for the largest game jam held in a single location, at the Microsoft and Train2Game Gameathon 2012

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    Yesterday students on Train2Game courses gathered at the University of Bedfordshire. Student will be developing applications based on the theme ‘Pride of London’ from 14th September to 16th September 2012, students have formed into development teams and are now busy creating videogames for Windows 8 in 48 hours. The world record will be set with a target of 301 or more participants. Representatives from The Guinness Book of World Records are in presence in and adjudicating the event

     

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    “We’re teaming with Train2Game not only to set a world record, but also to support gaming development in the UK,” said John Richards, senior director, Windows Partners and Developers at Microsoft Corp. “We’re working with the students developing for Windows 8, as they are the future of the industry.”

    Myra Smallman, Course Director, Train2Game: “This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to work with one of the most respected technology companies in the world. Microsoft is a major player in the video games industry globally and being part of this relationship will be incredibly positive for Train2Game students when they look for employment in the future. The students taking part will also be world record holders, a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

    Are you ready?

     

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    We started with proceeding grouping all the attendees across two lectures theatre, technical presentations from Simon Michael and myself gave students a overview of designing great games for Windows 8 before the two packed rooms.

     

    After the presentations the proceedings were streamed across the theatres and Bill Rammell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, welcomed all the attendees to the University and to the challenge ahead. Tiga CEO, Richard Wilson then welcomed the students to the gaming industry,  Mira Smallman then presented the Rules of Engagement for the World Record attempt clearly outlining the rule and record breaking conditions.

    Our keynote speaker, Scott Henson, Senior Director or Microsoft Studios, gave a inspiring presentation on his passion for gaming and discussed the opportunities of the gaming industry and achievement of Microsoft and the RARE studio.

    To close off, Scott had the pleasure to announce the theme for the games ‘Pride of London’.

    Student then eagerly departed the theatres to their team rooms to begin brainstorming and coding.

     

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    Coding through the night

    So its now day 2. Unfortunately there has been no sleep for the competitors as they are only allowed 1 hour break every 8 hours .

    The teams have been getting their hands dirty coding  C++  DirectX Windows 8 games. As we all know there is simply no better way to apply the learning’s of the last few weeks than getting in front of the computer and start to code on your idea.

    Team responsibilities are now well established with teams averaging 6 – 8 members so 2 designers, 2 developers, 1 QA and 1 Artist.

    Most of the teams are Team Foundation Server via TFS preview accounts or GitHub to work allow them to effectively to work in groups.

    We have already seen some really interesting concepts and prototypes and students are mastering Blend and Visual Studio 2012 in an amazing way.

    From a personal standpoint, there is a fantastic atmosphere across all the rooms and teams.

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    Looking forward to another 24 hours.. Thankfully I did have some sleep..

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    University of Lincoln - Applications Development using Windows Phone

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    The following is a guest blog – by Derek  Foster, University of Lincoln, School of Computer Science

    nokia-windows-mobile

    With consumer uptake of smartphone platforms growing exponentially on a global scale in recent years, particularly for accessing social media, news, streaming media and games through the lens of ‘mobile apps’, we felt it was time to overhaul our existing final year ‘Mobile and Distributed Computing’ module in the Lincoln School of Computer Science. Task-driven computing on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs is beginning to edge out the traditional desktop space, for example social media use on mobile devices has now surpassed the desktop; as the processing power of mobile devices increases they are likely to run more desktop application tasks. We took a close look at the development tools for the major mobile OS’s currently available with a view to selecting a suitable platform for inclusion in delivering content for teaching. Mobile development for a contemporary mobile platform was seen as an important skillset and significant boost for students’ CV’s and better equipping them for a mobile-geared job market. Computing students at Lincoln are taught in state-of-the-art labs with high-spec machines ensuring the best development experience possible. Students are largely empowered in their development needs by being able to select, suggest and install development software of their choice in the labs; for example choice of IDE’s, source control and other tools.

    In previous years we taught Java ME and realised the shelf life of the platform as a viable mobile OS had come to an end, indeed a roll call for mobile devices owned by our students revealed very low ownership for Java/Symbian based phones. Firstly, we had to consider our students current development skillsets and the main Computing degree streams they were enrolled on – this was to ensure we set the teaching style, pace and content at the right level. Secondly, consideration was given to the role of cloud computing in the development of mobile applications. Lastly, as a large part of the context of mobile use is social; for example social media, check-in services, recommender apps and photo sharing, we decided to include a significant amount of Human Computer Interaction and design methods in the updated module. This was bolstered by the expertise of the researchers delivering the module’s content who are active HCI researchers across multiple disciplines. By embracing a ‘designing for real users’ approach, the inclusion of HCI provides students with a strong focus on who they are developing for and the type of tasks their target end-users want to carry out. This approach was carried out well in advance of thinking about the development space; a design first:develop second approach.

    By the time students progress to their 3rd year at Lincoln they’ve had experience using various programming languages and IDE’s, including Visual Studio, which is used to teach C# programming, ASP.NET/MS-SQL, and XNA for games development. With the use of VS widespread in Lincoln’s computing degree programmes, it was a logical step to look at including it for mobile phone development. The question was ‘How good are Microsoft’s mobile development tools for Windows Phone when stacked up against the competition?’ The answer to this was straight forward after a few days experimenting with the tools and Windows Phone SDK. We were impressed by the integration of the Windows Phone SDK in Visual Studio, and further impressed by the emulator tools, easily edging out the competition in features for sensor emulation, debugging and ease of use through VS GUI building elements. The stage was pretty much set with the updated module aptly named ‘Social Applications Development’ and planned to run over the full academic year with 35 students in its first iteration.

    Windows Phone

    The structure of the module’s development content was inspired by a combination of resources available from the Windows Phone Developer website as well as our own research interests. To involve students in aspects of our current research we built 5 WCF services (themed on our research interests) and deployed them to Azure, the services were designed to enable students to easily create cloud-connected mobile apps; service details are listed below. The first half of the module was largely delving into development supported by a user-centric design ethos and included delivery of the following lectures and workshops structure:

    1. Intro to module. Development environment and installation. for WP (VS2010)

    a. Workshop – Hello world app

    2. Windows Phone – Hardware and Software (Silverlight, XAML)

    a. Workshop – UI and navigation app (Panorama & Pivot Interfaces)

    3. Windows Phone Sensors / Client-Server vs. Cloud

    a. Workshop – Launchers and choosers app (location, photos, maps)

    4. Windows Azure – Cloud Connected Mobile Applications

    a. Workshop – Saving data to isolated storage (text files, photos)

    5. Overview of REST API’s

    a. Workshop – Basic Twitter client using Twitter REST API and sentiment analysis WCF service

    6. API mashups and breakout session – generating novel mobile app concepts around multiple and diverse datasets

    a. Workshop – Photo app that saves photos to Azure using WCF service

    b. Workshop – Top 40’s music chart app using WCF service

    c. Workshop – Lincoln Campus hourly energy usage app using WCF service

    d. Workshop – Crime by location app using Bing Maps, UK Crime API and WCF service

    The development part of the module was well received by students, some of whom had basic coding experience and yet where able to produce novel cloud-connected mobile apps after a few months of attending lectures and workshops. Screenshots of the student apps with their comments are below.

    AT: “The module Social Applications and Development was an introduction for me into the world of mobile applications; learning and implementing the following application based technologies, such as:  Cloud Services, APIs, SDKs I was able to create a mobile application that allows a user to find out the crime statistics of given area.”

    MW: “I found the module very interesting and expertly delivered. I even enjoyed it so much I have already contributed my own content for use in future years. (a dll for converting a UK postcode to long and lat cords)”

    The second part of the module focussed on the user-centred design approach, mobile context-of-use, global mobile demographics, and ethics. We believe a blend of development skills, design theory and an understanding of end-users’ needs and desires when interacting with mobile devices equipped the students with requisite knowledge to carry out the design, implementation and evaluation of mobile apps on a cutting edge platform. We were also fortunate enough to arrange a Windows PhoneCamp which took place during the second part of the module and was a great success. Over 50 students attended and attempted the task of hacking together Windows Phone apps in the space of an afternoon; a blog post on Lincoln’s PhoneCamp is here.

    With the start of the new academic year fast approaching we are working on new Azure Cloud additions to the module and the potential inclusion of the Gadgeteer platform. With Gadgeteer being particularly suited to rapid prototyping, the possibility of using the platform for sensor stations and interactive prototypes that support our practical research would enable the creation of novel and engaging mobile apps.

    Upon reflection of a successful first year teaching Windows Phone development, we came to realise the importance of the cloud and its implications for building mobile apps and services. Further to this, we were successful in an application for an Azure Educators grant and plan to use the grant’s free academic accounts for our students to introduce more cloud computing development by allowing hands on experience of creating their own web services hosted in the cloud.

    Huge thanks to Derek.

    If you would like to share you academic experiences of using the Microsoft stack? Please get in touch or share your views comments and experiences on our linkedin group

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