• Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    DirectX immediate mode rendering in your C#/XAML app using the SharpDx library.


    Last week we had a huge Microsoft representation at Eurogamer ranging  from Xbox360, XboxOne, Windows Phone and Windows 8 demonstrating our devcies, services and latest titles. During the event I had a lots of interesting discussions with game devs, educators and students, one of the key themes of discussion was what is the best technology to build my games with?

    To address this I think you need to look at the industry and some best practices, hands down Unity is now by far the most popular middleware and what we are seeing is right now some real platform and service differentiators.

    One of the cool factor about Win 8 is XAML and its support for D3D11. However one of the key debates from existing Windows Silverlight developers is which skills do I need to learn, my simply comment is if we are given a choice I would suggest that you with go with XAML/C# and this where some great open source project come in such as MonoGame which I have spoken a lot about in the past on this blog and SharpDx.

    I know for many games devs building for Windows 8 they have spent a lot of time seeing if there was a way to combine D3D11 and XAML.  I would simply say stop searching and start focusing on doing XAML with some DirectX immediate mode rendering.

    The following is a simply walkthrough of how to do some DirectX immediate mode rendering in your C#/XAML app using the SharpDx library. This isnt a new subject and one the original MSDN Blog was published on exactly this, Combining XAML and DirectX. The blog is an excellent starting point and talks about what is possible with DirectX and XAML.

    So what is SharpDx

    SharpDx is a very thin library that exposes the DirectX api’s for use in C# WinRT apps. SharpDx exposes the DirectX API’s nearly 1-to-1 with no higher level abstraction (like what XNA is).

    SharpDX is FREE

    You can simply use the SharpDx library to render DirectX content in your XAML/C# apps via the controls mentioned in Combining XAML and DirectX (SurfaceImageHost & SwapChainBackgroundPanel) nt.

    I’ll spend this post walking you through how to get this all setup.

    Step 1 : Get SharpDx


    Current stable version of SharpDX is 2.5.0.

    SharpDX binaries are directly downloadable from this web site or available from nuget packages.

    SharpDX is now bundled into 2 separate packages, for all platforms and .NET Framework:

    • A Full installer package, Download FullSharpDX-Full-2.5.0.exe that contains binaries and samples. This is the recommanded way to install SharpDX. This installer adds the environement variable $(SharpDXSdkDir) to the system.
    • A Binary only package, Download BinSharpDX-Bin-2.5.0.exe that contains only binaries necessary to developed with SharpDX.
    • Or via Nuget Packages FullNuget Packages, providing binaries for .NET 2.0-4.0 and WinRT, with debugging information and source code stepping.

    There is also a Visual Studio Extension available with Project Templates for the Toolkit. Search for SharpDX in Extension Manager in VisualStudio 2012 and install it from there

    Step 3 : Build SharpDx code

    You can also build directly from the sources.

    1. Get a local copy of the sharpdx repository from the SharpDX gihub repository with this command:
      git clone 
      git@github.com:sharpdx/SharpDX.git   // use https://github.com/sharpdx/SharpDX.git if you don't have a github account
    2. .NET 3.5 Framework is required to build SharpDX (This is for example not installed by default on Windows 8)
    3. Download and install the DirectX SDK June 2010. SharpDX build is expecting the DXSDK_DIR environment variable to point to the DirectX SDK directory. This variable is setup automatically when installing the DirectX SDK.
    4. Download and install Microsoft Windows 7.1 SDK to compile Net20/Net40 release under Windows 8 / Visual Studio 2012
    5. To build SharpDX for Windows Desktop or Windows RT, open the solution SharpDX.sln and select the target you want to build:
      1. Net20Debug/Net20Release: To build the standard desktop SharpDX for .NET 2.0
      2. Net40Debug/Net40Release: To build the standard desktop SharpDX for .NET 4.0
      3. Win8Debug/Win8Release: To Build SharpDX for Windows 8 Metro (Requires Visual Studio 2012)
      4. Direct3D11_1Debug/Direct3D11_1Release: To Build SharpDX for Windows 7/8 Desktop (Requires Visual Studio 2012)
    6. To build SharpDX for Windows Phone 8, select SHarpDXWP8.sln solution

    Step 4 : Using these DirectX-C# libraries to render islands of DirectX in your XAML (SurfaceImageSource)

    The SharpDx team have some great samples that show how to use these libraries to render DirectX content in your XAML surface via the SurfaceImageSource element.


    The 2 “Rectangle” elements below are “Filled” with the SurfaceImageSource DirectX rendered content.

    The d3dRectangle will load the SurfaceImageSource content generated via the Direct3D pipeline

    The d2dRectangle will load the SurfaceImageSource content generated via the Direct2D pipeline.

    This demo shows both pipelines for rendering content,


    This rendered surface is just bitmap content so you can mix XAML all over or under it at your convenience!

    Step 5 : Using these DirectX-C# libraries to render full page DirectX  under your XAML (SwapChainBackgroundPanel)

    This second sample shows how to render a FULL screen DirectX surface underneath XAML using the SwapChainBackgroundPanel.


    Without going into too much detail the SwapChainBackgroundPanel lets you render DirectX content underneath your XAML content, because the XAML content sits within the SwapChainBackgroundPanel as a child.


    Let me know how you get on and what interesting games or apps you end up building with SharpDx.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Student Access to Microsoft Azure 90 day pass




    Need access to Windows Azure outside the classroom? Working on a project on cloud computing? Or maybe your master thesis? As a student you can take advantage of the free Windows Azure trial offer and run a Small Windows Azure instance with a 1GB SQL Azure database for 90 days*

    Here is what you get (monthly allocations):

    • Compute: 750 hours of a Small Compute Instance
    • Storage: 20GB with 50k Storage transactions
    • Data Transfers: 20GB out / Unlimited inbound data transfer
    • Relational Database: 1GB Web Edition SQL Azure database
    • Access Control: 100,000 transactions
    • Service Bus: 2 connections
    • Caching: 128MB cache

    Get the free trial

    *A Windows Live ID and credit card are required for proof of identity. There is no obligation to purchase at the end of the free trial.

    Learning 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.

    Order Now

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

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft Gadgeteer stimulates the kids.. at Hack to the Future



    Last weekend I went along to Hack to the Future, the idea of Alan O’Donohoe, Teknoteacher on Twitter. Alan is a Secondary School  ITC teacher in Preston. However Alan really wants to make a difference for the next generation. Alan decided to setup up a unconference to support the development of Computer Science to young people in the form of a day of informal learning entitled – Hack to the Future or #h2df.

    A direct quote from Alan

    It is an un-conference that aims to provide young digital creators aged 11 – 18 with positive experiences of computing science and other closely related fields, ensuring that the digital creators of today engage with the digital creators of tomorrow.

    We plan to offer a day that will inspire, engage and encourage young digital creator

    I’m proud to say that Microsoft fully supports events such as so we involved Microsoft Research, MS Press and a number of other key partners to help support the event. Myself and Steven Johnston from Southampton University, who is also working with Microsoft Research as a Gadgeteer outreach manager developed a plan and we set off for Preston.
    The event was all about the young people and it was amazing to see over 350+ young people plus around 100 teachers and parents attending the various talks, workshops and sessions at H2df. I have to stress the workshops and sessions at H2df were all hands on, and code based and Steven and myself spent the day at Hack to the future #h2df getting attendees hands on with the Microsoft .NET Gadgeter and had a great day.

    We ran 7 sessions each with 10 laptops/kits and were packed out each session. (each kit with 3/4 students, we had to turn some students away due to the demand so apologies if you did not attend). Below is a copy of the sessions which we completed.

    I have to state on the day we far more hands on with Visual Studio 2010 and C# and astounded by the skills of some of the younger developer (Hacklings, as Alan calls them)


    During the session the attendees built the camera and those that completed early - built a cardboard case and mounted the components to create a a digital camera. Thanks to @coletteweston for these great pic of her daughter at the event who as you can see was very successful.


    Overall the event was inspiring with children using Visual Studio 2010, some without any prior experience and writing C# and getting to play with the GHI Fez Spider Gadgeteer kits to build a fully working digital camera in around 30 mins – 45 mins. Hack to the Future was  an amazing day and really well done to Alan and the team of Our Ladies High School.

    To end the day, Alan put on some indoor fireworks and did his his famous #h2df rap. Well done to Alan and all the other volunteers at Hack to the Future and a great start to inspiring computer scientist of the future.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    SketchFlow – Sketching and Prototyping in Expression Blend


    I had a interesting discussion this morning with a business school looking at introducing Mobile App development one of the key things within their assessment is the proof of prototypes and wireframes we got onto discussing the opportunity and advantages of using Microsoft Expression, SketchFlow.

    SketchFlow addresses three pain points in software sketching and prototyping:

    It makes it easier to experiment with ideas for dynamic user interaction.
    It facilitates communication of design ideas and intent between designers and other stakeholders.
    It makes it easier to gather, evaluate and use stakeholder feedback on design ideas.

    Sketchflow is a fun, informal, flexible, quick and powerful way to sketch and prototype rich, dynamic interactivity with Expression Blend.



    The mission of the Expression team is to help designers to create great user experiences. We believe that this mission needs to begin with the early exploration phases of design. SketchFlow,

    SketchFlow is a set of tools for Expression Blend to create sketches and prototypes of interactive content and applications, giving Blend a new role in pre-production and design phases of the development process.

    SketchFlow is informal and quick, enabling you to sketch out plentiful ideas for dynamic interactions in a cost effective manner. SketchFlow also supports the evolution of your rough sketches into living and breathing prototypes that can be as real as you need them to be.

    SketchFlow is part of Expression Blend so FREE from www.dreamspark.com

    Throughout the software industry, we historically have not spent much effort on the earlier stages of design. This lack of upfront investment in design often leads to increased cost due to a need for expensive rework at a later stage and to products that may not satisfy our customers.

    Great design for software needs a great design process, and ways to make the exploration, communication and evaluation of interaction and design fast and effective are an important part of great process.


    Sketching, and, at a slightly later stage of the design process, prototyping, are wonderful techniques to explore a multitude of ideas quickly, without excessive investment and emotional attachment. Software interaction is highly dynamic, and over the last years we have consistently have pushed more in the direction of rich, dynamic visuals and interaction methods. Expectations have risen greatly. However, it is far from easy to create meaningful design studies and sketches of dynamic interactivity entirely with traditional tools. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that most design tools have been created as production tools, focused on the creation of final production assets, where precision, quality and finish matter. Another reason is that most tools still treat UI as something that is just a small derivation from an otherwise static comp.


    Gathering feedback

    SketchFlow provides a way to showcase your prototype to others using the SketchFlow Player. The SketchFlow Player allows you to explore the prototype from the first moment on, even while it consists of nothing but a few rough sketches. The player lets you navigate your prototype, run animations that illustrate how your prototype might work, or switch into different states of your UI, all without wiring up actual UI elements. This lowers the cost of evaluating ideas in early stages before much expense has been incurred.

    But showing a prototype to others is only part of the review process, so the SketchFlow Player provides tools to collect feedback from reviewers. Reviewers can provide feedback either as text, like the comments in the Feedback tab in the screenshot below, or as ink, like the red arrow in the screenshot below. Then you can incorporate this feedback into the prototype using the Feedback panel in Expression Blend, allowing you to iterate on your design using suggestions from your team.


    Tutorials on Sketchflow http://www.microsoft.com/design/toolbox/school/tutorials.aspx

    For more information, watch a video on Sketchflow

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Why start learning to build for Windows 8



    If you have done any reading about Windows 8, one thing all the press is focusing on is Windows 8 offers and unprecedented opportunity to monetize your developer skills.

    Combining the broad reach of Windows which already exists, a new developer platform in the form of Windows Store Apps, best-in-class developer tools Visual Studio 2012 and Team Foundation Server, a reimagined user experience with Windows Store, Metro Style Apps, support for new chipsets Intel and RTM, and a built-in Store with industry-leading business terms, with initial revenue share of 70% revenue for you 30 % for Microsoft and 100% in app purchase revenue to you.

    Windows 8 is the largest developer opportunity, ever!

    So lets look at some of the reasons for developers to consider writing applications for the Windows Store.

    1. The Size of the Windows Opportunity

    There is more than 1.25 billion Windows users globally. The market potential for your selling your application is enormous. Clearly, the market for Windows-based applications far outnumbers anything else. Thinking about academia specifically, potential employers will be wanting to recruit students with the skills, experience and portfolio of existing Windows 8 apps to build their latest software releases.

    2. The Scale of the Windows Opportunity

    Simply put the Windows Store offers a marketplace for your application with a global reach of 200+ markets, 100+ languages, even distribution to enterprise customers. A generous revenue sharing model is in place. Imagine that you keep 70-80% of the revenue share from your application.

    3. So what are we doing to help


    1. Some amazing help is available from Microsoft
    2. I am talking about the Windows 8 Camps
    3. Sign up HERE for the App Excellence Lab Process
    4. You will get a 2 hour, 1-1 session with a technical person to help review your app, pass it (to submit to the store submission process) or give you feedback you can go away and work on.
    5. The sessions can be virtual or physical so you can do it from your location.
    6. The AEL process is about quality so please make sure your app is in good shape so you have the best possible chance of getting the app through the process.
    7. AELs run from now to GA October 26th so there are lots of dates and times so you will be able to find a time that suits you.
    8. Get to grips with Windows 8 have one-on-one sessions with Microsoft staff
    9. They will help review your application for:
      • Performance
      • Adherence to the Windows 8 Design Principles
    10. This process could result in a your app getting early into the Windows Store


    4. So What type of App should I be building?

    What is the Best App Type? - Entertainment apps are the most popular, followed by Books and References, and Games.
    What languages can I develop in? Windows 8, Windows Store apps can leverage a variety of skills you already know (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS, XAML, C#, VB, or C++ ).

    5. The Windows Store Ensures Visibility

    Strong support for search, category browsing, ranking lists, editorial content. The Windows Store features latest, most popular, and fast rising apps.

    6. Enterprise Support
    Don’t limit yourself to consumer apps. Perhaps you have an idea for an Enterprise application. Luckily, the Windows Store will have rich support for deployment and management scenarios.  Compliance and security is built in. There is support for direct control over the deployment of Metro style apps.

    7. How you make money
    Your applications can be time-based and feature-based trials, paid apps, including in-app purchases.  In-app purchases can help you customize the transaction flow with the customer. Sales analytics can also help you increase your reach.

    8. Free Apps - Many choose to offer free applications + an ad model

    I personally think it makes the most sense to get your application out there as a trial. We have learned from the Windows Phone marketplace that trial versions get 70 times more downloads than paid versions. 10% of those convert to the paid version, typically within a few hours.


    1. The Windows Dev Center

    • Developer downloads – This single page gives access to all of the downloads you need to build apps, including Windows 8 RTM, Visual Studio Express 2012, design assets, code samples, and additional SDKs and tools.
    • Design resources – All Windows 8 design resources are located at design.windows.com. See case studies, category guidance, and get a new downloadable version of the UX guidelines for Windows 8 apps.
    • Developer content – The ‘Docs’ section of the Windows Dev Center is updated for RTM including more detailed API docs, new How-to articles, a new section for developing apps with C++ and DirectX, and many more samples.
    • Selling content – Find the Windows Store markets, how to price apps, and the latest versions of the Windows Store Agreements including the App Certification Requirements.
    • Community content – Access to developer forums, blogs, Dev Camps, and local event listings

    2. The Windows engineering and Windows Store teams are blogging regularly at the following sites

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft Training and Certification Guide


    We have just released a new Training & Certification Guide app into the Windows 8 store


    The app is a great tool for student, educators and professionals for evaluating which technical courses and certifications should be completed to gain Microsoft Professional Certifications.

    Screen shot 1

    Available here:


    The Training and Certification Guide features an interactive chart of our technical certifications mapped by courseware and exam. Clicking on the ‘subway map’ takes a user to more information on the different portfolios—details about the training, certifications, etc. Clicking further will then take users to /learning. A breakdown of keyword guidance is also included to map keywords to our certifications.

    The app also includes a ‘view as PDF’ option should users need to print pages.

    Wishing you a happy professional certification journey.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    If your thinking of installing Windows 8 are your labs machine HyperV capable?


    Whether you are a software developer, an IT administrator, many of us need to run multiple operating systems. Windows 8 uses Hyper-V, the machine virtualization technology that has been part of the last 2 releases of Windows Server.

    In brief, Hyper-V lets you run more than one 32-bit or 64-bit x86 operating system at the same time on the same computer. Instead of working directly with the computer’s hardware, the operating systems run inside of a virtual machine (VM).

    Hyper-V enables developers to easily maintain multiple test environments and provides a simple mechanism to quickly switch between these environments without incurring additional hardware costs.

    An introduction to Hyper-V




    Hyper-V requires a 64-bit system that has Second Level Address Translation (SLAT). SLAT is a feature present in the current generation of 64-bit processors by Intel & AMD. You’ll also need a 64-bit version of Windows 8, and at least 4GB of RAM. Hyper-V does support creation of both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems in the VMs.

    Hyper-V’s dynamic memory allows memory needed by the VM to be allocated and de-allocated dynamically (you specify a minimum and maximum) and share unused memory between VMs. You can run 3 or 4 VMs on a machine that has 4GB of RAM but you will need more RAM for 5 or more VMs. On the other end of the spectrum, you can also create large VMs with 32 processors and 512GB RAM.

    In conclusion, by bringing Hyper-V from Windows Server to Windows Client, allows you to provide a robust virtualization technology designed for the scalability, security, reliability, and performance needs of most data centers. With Hyper-V, developers and IT professionals can now build a more efficient and cost-effective environment for using and testing across multiple machines.

    So how do I know if my machine support SLAT (second level address translation). 

    1. Windows 8 HyperV requires support for SLAT (second level address translation). 

    2. So if your thinking of installing Windows 8 in your institutions computer labs you should check your machine BIOS as this feature can be enabled/disabled.

    3. To do this Download CoreInfo from the Windows Sysinternals website, here.

    4. Open a command window with admin rights and type coreinfo –v, if an asterix is displayed next to EPT row then your Intel processor supports SLAT.


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Server 2012 Certification and Training


    Windows Server 2012 Training & Certification Now Available to all Microsoft IT Academy members


    if your interested in IT Academy please visit http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/itacademy/


    1) Certifications and official Microsoft training and certifications are now available for Windows Server 2012, Windows 8, Private Cloud, Windows Store Application


    In addition to this we now have new structure for Microsoft Technical Certifications



    With a dedicated number of suitable examinations for the FE/HE education market which adds added value to the student experience and curriculum content aligning your courses with employees requirements.



    2) Windows Server Certification and examination tracks





    3) Microsoft Second Shot promotion is active so students (and lecturers) get a FREE retake if they do not pass first time for more info click here


    4) Courseware available for Windows Server 2012 is now available to all Microsoft IT Academy members   

    Module 1: Managing a Windows Server 2012 Infrastructure

    •What's New in Server Manager

    •Introducing IP Address Management

    •PowerShell and Server Core Enhancements

    •What’s New in Active Directory

    •Introducing Dynamic Access Control

    Module 2: Network, Storage, and Service Access in Windows Server 2012

    •Storage Enhancements

    •What's New in Remote Access

    •New and Improved Networking Technologies

    •Availability Enhancements

    Module 3: Server Virtualization in Windows Server 2012

    •Storage Enhancements

    •What’s New in Networking

    •Introducing Hyper-V Replica

    •What’s New in Live Migration

    •What’s New in Guest Clustering and VM Monitoring

    More Info:

    First Look Clinic Syllabus

    Hands On Lab Syllabus

    5) Microsoft IT Academy now  includes a number of enhanced resources including new online digital content and resources for more information click here




    Click Here for the FREE E-Book on Windows Server 2012

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Download Building Windows Phone Apps: A Developer’s Guide



    I’m pleased to announce that the 1st edition of “Building Windows Phone Apps: A Developer’s Guide” is available to download.

    This e-book is a community effort to capture useful information and learning about building apps on the Windows Phone platform.

    Download Building Windows Phone Apps: A Developer’s Guide

    For more details on this publication and its authors see Mike Ormond's Blog, please feel free to use this book with students and your courses also if you have any comments suggestions or ideas for additional chapters or content please post your feedback on Mike’s Blog.

    Happy reading!

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft ‘IoT’ Internet of Things Developer Program




    About the Windows Developer Program for IoT

    Designed for developers

    This is the first in a series of Internet of Things (IoT) programs for the creation of connected devices.  This program is tailor-made for both makers and Windows developers entering into the IoT space.

    Rapid hardware development

    The accessibility of Arduino combined with the connectivity of Windows.  Quickly iterate and expand on hardware and software designs using existing shields and sketches.

    Windows platform with Visual Studio

    Leverage the Windows platform and its diverse hardware ecosystem. Utilize familiar Win32 programming using best in-class development and debugging tools.

    Open community

    Connect with your fellow developers and share code contributions through GIT. Participate and influence subsequent releases of the SDK.

    Start building



    Learn how you can make great connected things and contribute back to the community.


    Set up your Galileo board and get your project rolling.


    Find a sensor, look at samples, or check out the project the community is building.


    If you're not already a part of the program, sign up here.

    Community resources

    Wiring for Windows

    Visit the Github repository for our open source implementation of the Arduino API set on Windows.

    Stack Overflow: Q&A

    Post questions and see responses about this Developer Program on Stack Overflow.

    Wiring API

    Visit Wiring.org to find a description of the elements that constitute the Wiring framework.

    Follow us on Twitter

    Follow the #winbuilder hashtag on Twitter.

    MSDN: forum

    Post questions and see responses about the Developer Program on the MSDN forums.

    IRC channel

    Listen in or contribute to the live community chat.

    Report bugs

    Review or submit bugs for Microsoft and the community at our Microsoft Connect site.

    YouTube channel

    Watch videos of maker events and community projects.

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