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April, 2012

  • FE blog

    The Sunday Papers Edition


    Its been a busy week on the blog. With 10 posts this week, its easy to miss the odd piece of content here and there. We are committed to continue sharing content on the blog with the same frequency, so thought it might be useful to produce a weekly summary post. A perfect accompaniment to the Sunday papers over a leisurely breakfast!

    Hope you have enjoyed this weeks posts. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

  • FE blog

    Visual Studio Achievements, bringing gamification to the IDE - Now with Azure Support


    clip_image001Last January, we released Visual Studio Achievements, bringing gamification to the IDE. The reaction from the developer community was very positive and we’ve had 85,000+ downloads to date.

    Today, we’re excited to announce an update to extension, adding 15 new achievements, all focused on Windows Azure development. You can read more about this on the official MSFT blog, the Windows Azure blog and, of course, on Channel9.

    Bring Some Game To Your Code!

    A software engineer's glory so often goes unnoticed. Attention seems to come either when there are bugs or when the final project ships. But rarely is a developer appreciated for all the nuances and subtleties of a piece of code--and all the heroics it took to write it. With Visual Studio Achievements Beta, your talents are recognized as you perform various coding feats, unlock achievements and earn badges.

    Learn More About Visual Studio

    Visual Studio is a powerful tool with tons of features, many of which you may not know about. Earning some of the badges may result in learning about features you didn’t even know existed!

    Download It

    Download it today from the Visual Studio Gallery

    How It Works

    With the Visual Studio Achievements Extension, achievements are unlocked based on your activity. Your code is analyzed on a background thread each time you compile. In addition, the extension listens for certain events and actions that you may perform in Visual Studio, reporting progress on these events to the server.

    When you unlock an achievement, Visual Studio lets you know visually with a pop-up:


    Figure 1 - Unlocking An Achievement

    In addition, your Channel 9 profile is updated with any achievements you earn, recalculating your position on the leaderboard:


    Figure 2 - The Visual Studio Achievements Leaderboard

    Some examples of individual achievements include Regional Manager (have more than 10 regions in a single class), Close To The Metal (use 5 preprocessor directives), Stubby (generate method stubs 10 times) or Interrupting Cow (have 10 breakpoints in a file). All in all, there are 32 achievements awaiting to be unlocked, all of which are listed here. Here's what the 6 different badges look like:

    The Six Categories of Achievements




    Customizing Visual Studio

    Don't Try This At Home

    Good Housekeeping




    Just For Fun

    Power Coder

    Unleashing Visual Studio

    Share Your Flair

    Each time you earn a badge, a unique page is created with your profile picture, the badge and a description. You can tweet about achievements you earn and/or share them on Facebook:


    Figure 3 - Share A Page

    Or, you can show a list of achievements on your blog using the Visual Studio Achievements Widget which is as simple as adding one line of script to your page. After all, those badges look so shiny and nice! Here's an example of the widget on a blog:


    Figure 4 - The Visual Studio Achievements Widget On A Blog


    We're just getting started with Visual Studio Achievements and are hoping to release more in the future. If you have ideas for additional achievements, we'd love to hear about them. Please use the Q&A section of the achievements extension to make suggestions for future achievements. And if you have suggestions, concerns, issues or problems, again, use the Q&A section of the achievements gallery page. Give a read to the FAQ as well as your question may already be answered.

    Download it today from the Visual Studio Gallery

  • FE blog

    Imagine Cup 2012 UK Results


    Originally posted on the UK Faculty Connection blog.

    On Wednesday 25h April at 16:00 BST, the UK hosted its local Imagine Cup finals webcast at the Microsoft Campus in Reading. The 6 finalists from the Software Design competition who were chosen from a round of preliminary judging were whittled down to the two top teams on 19th April through 5 hours of judging in a sealed room at our Microsoft offices in London Victoria. Through much deliberation over the next few days, we chose one team to represent the UK at the Imagine Cup worldwide finals in Sydney, Australia!

    Imagine Cup Software Design in the UK this year: A few stats


    · We had 991 registrations for the Imagine Cup UK this year

    · 374 of them signed up to the Software Design competition

    · 49 teams were formed for the Software Design competition

    · 26 teams submitted a Round 1 entry

    · 6 teams were selected for the UK final

    · 1 team won and will go to the worldwide finals in Sydney to represent the UK

    The Judges


    The Teams


    Bazinga! From Motherwell College – were inspired to use smartphone technology to inspire students all about Science! “Professor Duffy’s Interactive Labs app” is a complete science Lab on the phone utilising various sensors on the phone to demonstrate the practical side of science in a fun and interactive way.

    Teesside 0x32: From Teesside University was inspired to develop Cloud Doctor – In Ethiopia for example there is 1 doctor to 50,000 patients. Cloud Doctor, as the name implies, harnesses Windows Azure and Cloud technologies combined with Windows Phone and Windows 8 tablets to deliver an on-demand, flexible and intelligent collaboration system – connecting healthcare workers in the developing world with specialists and doctors all over the world who volunteer their time to help patients on the ground.

    Team EyeWorks: From Northumbria University and Newcastle College were inspired to develop MIRA (a Mobile Intelligent Retinal Analysis platform). MIRA is a cloud based platform that utilises Smartphone technology coupled with a specialist lens attachment developed at Northumbria University to identify early stage sight loss in the developing world.

    WykeWare: From the University of Hull were inspired to develop a smartphone application to assist those people with a risk of falling be it the elderly or people prone to fainting. Their submission embraced cloud technology to match emergencies and responders to identify how to prioritise how best to help.

    Sentient Systems: From the University of Reading were inspired to develop “Sentience” a cost effective software solution designed to run affordable , advanced and customizable robot systems utilising cloud based distribution, plug-in architectures, commodity frameworks and low cost hardware specifically Kinect!

    Team Loading: From The University of Manchester were inspired to develop Project Sky High. Project Sky High is a Windows Phone application combined with a netduino hardware sensor to allow aid workers in the developing world to transform a smartphone into a cost effective portable ultrasound scanner and mobile blood pressure monitor. The patient data will be recorded in the cloud in Windows Azure and accessible by a medical professional.

    The Winners

    In 3rd place and winners of a pocket digital video camcorder each were…


    In 2nd place and winners of a Windows Phone each were…


    In 1st place and winners of a Windows Phone each, a trip to the Microsoft Technology Center in Reading to spend a day with the experts and also the grand prize of a trip to Sydney, Australia to compete in the worldwide finals were…


    A huge congratulation to all teams who competed and this year the decision was made much harder than ever before as the entries this year far surpassed previous years.

    All teams who submitted a Round 2 video entry will be receiving feedback and teams who have won prizes will be hearing from the Academic Team very soon! Congratulations to Team EyeWorks and we will be seeing you in Sydney!

    Watch the Video of the Imagine Cup 2012 UK Live Web Cast relieving the Winners of the UK Imagine Cup entries. 

  • FE blog

    Launch of a new Social Media Level 3 Diploma with the City & Guilds


    As social media continues to change the way that brands and consumers interact, I am thrilled to be involved in the launch of City & Guilds new Social Media Level 3 Diploma. The launch event, held on the 9th May in London, addresses how the new qualification will help equip learners and employers for the new ways of business marketing.


    Social Media is now a key marketing tool for businesses of all sizes, and should be front and centre of any marketing planning moving forward. The new qualification helps prepare marketers and business for this new approach to marketing and covers areas such as the principles of social media for business, key words/optimisation, content writing and a range of technical modules that would be used to implement an effective social media strategy. Definitely doesn’t leave any stone left uncovered!

    Furthermore, this event will count towards delegates CPD.

    At the event, I will be delivering a work shop that covers some of the changes in the marketing landscape and how the use of social media can help organisations to better engage with their community and help them achieve their objectives.

    Event details

    This is a free full day event, held on the 9th May, and will run from 09.30 – 16.00.


    CCT Venues

    2 East Poultry Avenue


    EC1A 9PT

    Event Code: SME090512SM

    More information can be found on the City & Guilds website. Alternatively, if you have any queries, please contact Sue Bridge, Customer Support Events Coordinator on 01924 206777 or email: customer_events@cityandguilds.com.

    Hope to see you there!


  • FE blog

    Microsoft Spring 2012 HE/FE Update


    ULCC (University of London Computer Centre) are hosting a morning briefing designed to showcase the experiences of two University's implementations of Microsoft technologies. The briefing is happening on Thursday 24th May 2012 from 10am until 2pm.  The event will finish with a chance to network with colleagues over a light lunch sponsored by Eduserv.

    The conference hashtag is #HEFEupdate12 for tweeting and blogging about the event.


    10:00 Registration and coffee

    10:30 Welcome

    10:35 Consumerisation and the Cloud - A Microsoft Perspective

    11:15 Lync - Recognising the Cost Saving Potential

    11:45 Break

    12:00 Office 365 Deployment at the University of Dundee

    12:45 Server Licensing and Office for Students

    13:00 Lunch and networking

    ULCC, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

    For further information and to register for the event click here.



    Eduserv develop and deliver technology solutions that demonstrate savings within Higher and Further Education, Government, Health and across the third sector. As a not-for-profit organisation Eduserv channels any surplus to research and development of services that will benefit the public good, today and in the future.

  • FE blog

    Claire Young from the Apprentice talks to Microsoft about entrepreneurship


    In this episode of Edu Talk, the first in our series of video interviews with members of the education, business and technology communities, Claire Young, entrepreneur and founder of School Speakers, talks to Microsoft about why enterprising skills are important for young people in today's world.

    The full video can be viewed/downloaded below:

    Additional episodes of Edu Talk will be made available over the coming months. If you have any ideas of inspiring members of the community that we could interview as part of the Edu Talk series, please leave your ideas in the comments below.

    We hope you enjoy the first episode and look forward to sharing additional Edu Talk content with you soon.


  • FE blog

    Office Casual: OneNote for School


    Class assignments, schedules, homework, projects, and research can all be kept and searched in OneNote. In this short video, Doug Thomas shows students a few tricks about using images and how to share OneNote between multiple PCs, slates, Macs, and phones. View the full video below.

  • FE blog

    System Center 2012 – An Overview


    System Center 2012 can transform your IT Infrastructure, from your Desktops, to your Data Centre and out to the Cloud. View this recording of our recent Webcast, presented by Gordon Mckenna of Inframon, to understand what System Center 2012 can do for you. This session will provide a good overview of the capabilities of the suite and also provide a “what’s new” update if you are aware of previous versions.

  • FE blog

    SharePoint 2010 – An Overview for Education


    Watch this recording presented by Dave Coleman, SharePoint MVP, as he gives an overview of SharePoint 2010. During this recording, Dave explores how SharePoint can address key needs within education institutions and by making use of existing licensing agreements, SharePoint can also help to remove cost from your organisation.

  • FE blog

    Student Windows Phone developer Q & A


    Questions answered by Windows Phone expert Ben Lower

    Originally posted by Microsoft Student

    A big shout out to Ben Lower and all the student developers that participated in the exciting chat this morning on the Microsoft Student Facebook page! If you missed it or want to read the advice that Ben gave your peers, we have recapped the conversation below, everything from one of Ben’s colleagues cheering him on to Ben’s Aunt Susan wishing him good luck and all of the awesome student dev questions in between. Thanks again for asking such wonderful questions about your experience with developing with Windows Phone. Ben was excited that so many of you participated!

    From Ben, “Thanks to everyone for all the great questions & for your interest in learning more about Windows Phone. I highly encourage you to utilize the Find My Champ application (http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/apps/a84f1740-0047-4408-b317-c2db01a70fb4) to find Microsoft experts in your area who can help you with your developing questions on Windows Phone. You can also get the full source code for this app at http://findmychamp.codeplex.com/

    Ben Lower

    Full recap below:

    Q: How would you define a scope for students as WP developers? Also is channel9's Absolute Beginner tutorial sufficient for developing Pro apps?

    Ben: Thanks for the questions. The scope could be whatever you want it to be. It depends on what you are trying to do – build ur skills as a dev, build experience, make money, etc. Absolute beginner is a good start. Also check the Windows Phone Jumpstarts (http://channel9.msdn.com/Series/Mango-Jump-Start/Mango-Jump-Start-01-Building-Windows-Phone-Apps-with-Visual-Studio-2010)

    Q: What are the basic fields that I should be an expert in to be a Windows Phone developer?

    Ben: You need to be able to understand the context of mobile applications: you have a small screen, limited computing power, and all those sensors (GPS, accelerometer, etc.). Then, it really depends on what type of experiences/apps you want to create. You might need lots of design expertise, lots of data expertise. If you can build Windows Phone apps using C# and learn VB.NET languages, that will help. It really depends, but you also need to be able to code and to be good at learning as you go since you'll likely be forging new ground.

    Q: Is there any way to use Native Code coming to Windows Phone?

    Ben: We have received this request many, many times from developers and it's something that we are definitely investigating for possible future release. What is your specific need for native code use on Windows Phone?

    Q: I am wondering because I know that would be a very good push to the platform. By the way, I'm a last year student of computer engineering and I also have some experience (limited) developing in Android's platform, but since I got my Windows Phone I'm totally in love with it. So I was thinking to start developing some apps for WP. I'm also interested in an internship with Microsoft. Do you think starting to develop for the platform is a good beginning that could help me with my internship request?

    Ben: Cool and good luck in your final year. Getting some good apps or other project experience on your resume will definitely help your internship/job search. For Microsoft, check out https://careers.microsoft.com/careers/en/gbl/student.aspx

    Q: What kind of laptop are you using? It looks stunning!

    Ben: Thanks! I'm using Samsung series 9 with a custom, I ♥ WP ASCII art skin that I made.

    Q: Thanks for the live chat session! Any idea when AppHub will be available in more countries? It is quite expensive to use third party publishers to publish our apps.

    Ben: You are welcome! Thanks for joining us and for the question. We are always working hard to expand the number of countries for developers. In fact we just added 13 new markets for consumers yesterday (http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_phone/b/wpdev/archive/2012/03/28/marketplace-now-open-in-13-new-markets-are-your-apps-available.aspx). Our goal is to make App Hub available in as many places as possible, but it's very complicated and so takes more time than we (and you :-)) would like. Where are you running into high expenses with a third party publishers?

    Q: Thanks for the answer Ben. Because I live in Macedonia, I need to go through http://appamarket.com/ . And if you look at the pricing page, it is simply too much for a student to pay :(

    Ben: I understand. I know that some of our global publishing partners have reduced pricing for students. Did you ask them? Also, try looking at http://www.yallaapps.com/ who I know help students with lower pricing.

    Q: Thanks for yallaapps.com Ben. Much better rates there. Could you tell us what is the ONE feature you like the most on the WP7? :)

    Ben: I love the People Hub the most because it brings all my contacts from Hotmail, Gmail and Outlook into one place and also merges with Facebook & Twitter status for my friends. I use it all the time!

    Q: I know C and C++ very well. I am interested in app developing for Windows 8 apps, so what other technical knowledge do I need? Is it possible with these skills or should I learn C# for XAML,XML. Can you please tell me all the possible combinations.

    Ben: If you want to build Windows 8 apps and Windows Phone apps today, then you'd likely be best served to focus on C# and XAML as those skills are pretty transferrable across both platforms.

    Q: Expression Blend for VS 11 is very buggy, sometime can't even copy and paste, it is laggy compared to developing in Windows 7.

    Ben: VS 11 is still in preview release and will be slow and have bugs :-) performance improvements usually come as we finish up the product for release.

    Q: Why doesn’t Microsoft make Windows OS in phone an open source, so that it can become widely used by everyone?

    Ben: Microsoft invests a lot in open source in various ways: Codeplex, ASP.NET MVC (http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/archive/2012/03/27/asp-net-mvc-web-api-razor-and-open-source.aspx), and others. It's not part of our strategy to open source the entire Windows Phone OS.

    Q: I have basic knowledge of C# and ASP.NET, but don’t know anything about windows phone development. Where do I start?

    Ben: Best starting point is our Getting Started Guide (http://on.fb.me/HlayBU) which will link you to great free tutorials and online resources.

    Q: Is this possible to make Android apps using .NET framework.

    Ben: Yes, you can use Mono (http://xamarin.com/monoforandroid) to build Android apps using C# and .NET...but why would you want to put yourself through that pain & suffering ;-)

    Q: Would you recommend making a custom local search app (for offline use) for the windows phone 7.1 device for a beginner?

    Ben: That sounds like a very good project that will cover different aspects of the phone: GPS, maps, offline data storage, sync to web, etc. I'd always encourage you to focus on a project that you care about, as your passion will help you stick it out and really learn.

    Q: Many people think WP7 is not a good market to invest in. What is your view on the market compared to Android and iPhone?

    Ben: Windows Phone is a unique experience compared to our competitors. We offer developers and designers a unique canvas upon which to create engaging experiences. Most developers tell us they can get their apps built for us faster and easier than on other platforms. We provide free tools and students can join App Hub free of charge. Plus, you can still standout in our marketplace which isn't overrun with hundreds of thousands of apps. Nokia has essentially bet their company on Windows Phone and they are getting great traction with their first devices they have released. Not to mention that you have people like me and our Phone Champs (http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/apps/a84f1740-0047-4408-b317-c2db01a70fb4) who truly care about the success of our developers and will help you be successful.

    Q: I want to work on the Windows Phone application with database support. Does 7.1 SDK support SQL lite for apps or only7.5 supports? Are there links to resources where I can refer about how to work with local databases for Windows Phone apps. Also, can I write into the resource XML sheet of my app from input fields presented in the app? Can I use the XML as a storage resource?

    Ben: We added SQL CE support in 7.5. You can save your data locally to the device in many ways including XML. Watch this video for some amazing tips on how to manage local data storage and sync. http://research.microsoft.com/apps/video/dl.aspx?id=158954

    Q: Hi Ben! Do you see the windows market as more of a niche market for business related applications? What other visual studio add-ons/plugins do you use for WPD?

    Ben: I don't see it as a niche market at all. We are seeing all sorts of apps & games. I use Telerik controls and the Silverlight Toolkit, but I spend most of my time in VS & Blend.

    Q: Hello Ben, I am creating a simple note taking application called Sribbble, and I only have two bugs that I have yet to find a fix. One is the textbox which seems to have a limited height. I have checked it's properties and max height, which is set to infinity, but when you type over 45 lines you are still able to type, but the text is not visible. You can scroll past that point, but the text just is not visible past about 45 lines. I checked other note taking applications and many of them have the same bug. Do you know of a way to work around for this? Thank you.

    Ben: Sorry that you're running into that issue with the textbox in Scribbble. I'm not sure on this, but you can ping @JeffWilcox on twitter who should be able to answer.

    Q: Thank you, Ben for this initiative! I'm wondering is there any news about Native Arabic Language Support in the next update of Windows Phone? I've been creating workarounds and Custom Silverilght Controls to let the text display correctly from right to left, I've also created a new Arabic Keyboard Layout to be able to develop apps in Arabic. The web browser used to display Arabic letters, but in reversed order and after the Mango update, the web browser acts really weird when it tries to render a page that contains Arabic content, not even in reversed order, sometimes you'll not be able to see the page contents at all.
    *If anyone needs help in displaying Arabic content in their windows phone 7 or any general help in building WP7 apps or Silverlight Apps feel free to contact me, I'll be happy to help! :)

    Ben: I've seen your work and give you props! Very cool that you implemented Arabic support. We understand the importance of supporting RTL and Arabic and are investigating possibility of that at some point in future.

    Q: I encounter a problem when using a map inside a pivot. It works on emulator without any problem but crashes on the phone. I found many developers have similar problems. Is there any simple way to overcome it?

    Ben: We don't recommend that you put a map control inside a pivot. There are workarounds mentioned in this MSDN article: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh202919(v=vs.92).aspx

    Q: When manipulating sounds in the Silverlight, is it possible to create a global instance of the sound to be able to change its properties independently from what page is being navigated inside the applications?

    Ben: I believe this is possible, but I would need to look up on MSDN to be sure. Contact your local Phone Champ for more help on this question.

    Q: Hi Ben. I am from Macedonia, and this country is not supported by the App Hub, so we cannot do a developer unlock on a WP device. Before, there was Chevron, but they sold out all the tokens and I don’t know any other option. Is there any other option to unlock a device for development, or is there any option to get unlocked developer device?

    Ben: Sorry that we don't yet, support Macedonia, but you can check out our global publishing partners such as http://www.yallaapps.com/

    Q: Hi Ben. Is there any way to exit the application?

    Ben: You can exit apps on the phone by hitting the back button repeatedly until you exit

    Q: Hi Ben, I was wondering if in the future we'd have more control on how the keyboard is displayed and on how our app is scrolled (or not) when the keyboard appears. Dealing with this really was a pain.

    Ben: Not sure, but you can raise this and any other requests on http://wpdev.uservoice.com/. We use this site all the time to get feedback from our devs and help us plan and prioritize our work.

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