.NET Rocks Roadshow – Nov 14th

Carl and Richard are hitting the road again for a tour of 19 cities across the US, and they are kicking it off in Boston, home of the World Champion Red Sox!

Richard Campbell & Carl Franklin

Get ready to be immersed in the power of Visual Studio 2013, Xamarin and Windows Azure. We are going to show you all the cool new tools, how to build cross-platform mobile apps and leverage the power of the cloud to scale your next hit application. The .NET Rocks! Team of Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell are on the road bringing  you presentations focused on building modern applications.

At each stop, they will record a live .NET Rocks! show with a guest star that will be flown in for the occasion.

  • Learn about Visual Studio 2013
  • See cross-platform mobile development
  • Get GEEKY with Richard & Carl

The Boston stop is on Thursday, November 14th at the Hynes Convention Center and registration is now open.

For other locations through the end of January, check the MSDN Events site.

Build-A-Game Workshops, Oct. 26th

Both Josh and I are hosting hands-on Windows 8 workshops this weekend – he in Farmington and I in Cambridge; each runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Microsoft offices at those locations. We’ll both be covering Scirra Construct 2, a fantastic tool to build HTML5 games that you can deploy to Windows 8 (and Windows Phone) whether you’ve been a developer for years or are just getting started.

Build a Game with Construct 2

To make the most of the workshop, be sure to have your laptop set up before hand (see below), and if you need some help doing so, note that there are Studio Time opportunities in both Farmington and Cambridge before Saturday’s events.

  1. Mac users only: Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, VirtualBox or VMWare Fusion
  2. Windows 8 (a 90-day evaluation version available here)
  3. Visual Studio 2012 Professional (free for DreamSpark or MSDN subscribers) or Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8 (free for anyone)
  4. Scirra Construct 2 (free version)

Make $75 on Your App Makeover

This past spring, my colleagues and I spent a lot of time on college campuses introducing students to the Windows 8 platform and teaching them how to build casual games with Construct 2 as well as apps with both C#/XAML and HTML5/JavaScript. If you’re a student who published an app between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013, now’s your chance to create a new, updated app based on your existing one – and perhaps get an extra $75 (or more) for your efforts.

Windows 8 App Makeover Challenge

The Windows 8 App Makeover Challenge runs through January 1, 2014, and the rules are straightforward:

  1. Be a US resident (at least 18 years old) and a student in an accredited US educational institution,
  2. Have published a Windows 8 application between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013,
  3. Update your application per the criteria in the Terms and Conditions of the challenge,
  4. Submit your modified app as a NEW application to the Windows Store,
  5. Once your “make-over” app has been approved, visit http://aka.ms/AppMakeoverSubmission and submit the online entry form.

There’s no limit to the number of applications you can make over, but only the first 1500 apps that meet the criteria will be eligible for the $75 Amazon Gift Cards.

Who’s on 8: Jack-O-Lantern

Found this one while sitting with my youngest checking out some of the more seasonal apps currently in the Window Phone Store.  Jack-O-Lantern is the creation of Eric Harty of Ebscer, and is a simple and free way to create funny (and weird) jack-o-lantern faces on your phone.

Just swipe the various features to create new expressions and tap to change the background color – incredibly simple, but rather addictive for my youngest (and ok, me as well).

wp_ss_20131016_0001     wp_ss_20131016_0002

Check the Jack-O-Lantern app out – free – on the Windows Phone Store, and get in the holiday spirit!

Who’s on 8: Save Recipes

Being on vacation for a couple of weeks has given me some extra time to check out new apps in the store, and I thought I’d share a recent find by one of our more prolific developers, Matt Ruffell of MDR Applications in upstate New York.

Save Recipes by MDR ApplicationsSave Recipes does exactly what it says – allows you to store your favorite recipes from friends, grandma, and all those cooking reality shows right on your Windows 8 “sous chef” slate in the kitchen! This app also comes with a backup and restore feature to SkyDrive so you’re not at risk of losing your culinary collection.

Matt has published the app with a free (30-day) trial – a best practice for any paid application. In fact, around a year ago, the Windows Phone team published some statistics indicating that paid apps with a trial were downloaded 70 more times than paid apps without a trial and came with around a 10% conversion rate to the full version, a majority within a day after downloading the trial.

I’ve yet to meet Matt in person, but have conversed with him numerous times over the past year or two beginning when his Windows Phone app, Cool Tools, first caught my attention.  That was one of his first Windows 8 apps and as I’m writing this, Cool Tools for Windows 8 also appears as the highlighted app for the Tools category on the Windows Store. So I guess double congratulations are due – nice job, Matt!

Who’s on 8: Tablet Letter Pro and Tablet Invoice Pro

Steve Hall of Lucky 8 Solutions is no stranger to Windows 8. He has published 10 Windows Store apps focused on mobile data collection and digital forms, including the recently launched Table Letter Pro, and in September 2012 founded and continues to run the Boston Windows 8 App Developers and IT Group in Cambridge. 

Table Letter Pro   Tablet Invoice Pro

Recently I asked Steve to share his thoughts on the latest apps he’s developed (pictured above):

Most recently I launched ‘Tablet Invoice Pro’ (Windows 8/RT App). This app is optimized for Windows tablets and touch-screen usability. You can choose from professional templates or customize yourself by adding images, receipt photos, and a touch-screen signature. Stay organized with easy filter options and automatically attach invoice to emails (Word, XLS or PDF format). Taxes and totals are calculated for you.

I started Tablet Invoice Pro in July 2013 because I wanted to create a digital forms app for mobile business users that would showcase the capabilities of Windows store apps when optimized for Windows tablets. I set out with three primary objectives.

  1. Make it faster to fill out touch screen forms using a Windows tablet;
  2. Use the tablet to include photos and to get a customer signature using the touch screen;
  3. Be able to easily save, edit and email the invoices in Word, Excel or PDF formats right from the tablet. I wanted knew Microsoft was focused on tablets and I wanted to show other app developers what is possible.

To save time custom developing key functionality we took advantage of Syncfusion Essential Studio for WinRT/XAML. By using this tool set, we were able to save over 100 hours developing the technology that turns forms into formatted Word, Excel and PDF documents (plus functionality to include photos and digital signature).

The process of developing mobile business apps optimized for Windows 8/RT tablets has been exciting. I am not a developer, but I hired a developer in India thru Elance, which was recommended to me from Microsoft BizSpark. I understood workflows and picked up the concept of the metro design and XAML fairly quickly. The developer understood WPF, MVVM and XAML, so the coding was pretty straightforward.

We developed the entire app in C#/XAML. The hardest part was just figuring out the best way to do something new since there weren’t really many good digital forms apps in the Windows Store to look at. My local Boston Windows App Tech evangelist, Jim O’Neil gave me advice along the way and great feedback on improvements I could make based on Microsoft suggested best practices.

Over the past year my experience with Microsoft has been great. They have helped me every step of the way and as a result I have 10 apps in the store. Building Windows Store Apps is fun and easy and I would recommend it to anyone. I have created apps focused on photos, videos, drawings, Bing Maps, voice notes, text notes and SkyDrive – all with the help of Microsoft and the tools and resources they offer for app developers.

Next I plan to develop more mobile business apps showcasing digital forms and mobile data collection capabilities for Windows Tablets to help Boston Windows 8 App Developers & IT Group members understand what’s possible. Windows 8 tablet apps are better for mobile business users than iPad apps and I can prove it.

Publish Your Own "LetterMan" in the Windows Store

Ok, I admit it: LetterMan holds a special place in my heart. It was the first app I published in the Windows Store, and it’s how I cut my teeth on Scirra’s Construct 2.

LetterMan was also the basis of four additional apps I published, each leveraging the same game logic but offering bilingual play in English and each of Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, and German (all with the help of volunteer translators).  Together, I’ve had more than 4000 downloads and 22 ratings with an average of about 3.75. Alas these are free apps, so I haven’t yet quit my day job!

Screenshot from German version of LetterMan

I had grand plans for a Latin version and even a “geek” version, but also realized there are a host of other apps that could arise – fueled by all of you multi-linguists out there.

So rather that hoard all the fun myself, I’ve open“open-sourced” the template I used for each of these applications and provided detailed instructions for you to create your own localized versions of the game and likewise get published in the Windows Store.

You’ll need to do a bit of work translating some text and, of course, finding images of objects starting with the various letters of your target language’s alphabet, but there are lot of public domain and Creative Commons repositories that can help (assuming you’re as graphically challenged as I).

For my apps, I made heavy use of the following sites for the graphics and background music:

  • clker.com – for vector-based, public domain clip art (there’s even an in-browser SVG editor you can use to make modifications to existing assets)
  • soundbible.com – sound effects (public domain and Creative Commons)
  • incompetech.com – royalty-free background music requiring only attribution within the application (something already accounted for in the template)

I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with, so be sure to add a comment to this blog post if you’re planning to undertake a new language version. And definitely let me know when your app is live in the store!

Lastly, don’t hesitate to drop me a note if something about the template or the instructions isn’t clear.

Boston Code Camp – Oct. 19th

Boston Code Camp

Boston Code Camp is just around the corner – another chance to attend your pick of nearly 30 sessions on topics ranging from Windows 8 to Azure to Neo4j and have the opportunity to network with over 200 area technologists.

This is the 20th edition of the Boston Code Camp, and like all its precursors, the event is completely free to attend, courtesy of sponsors such as ComponentOne and Microsoft. The event will be held at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center (NERD) on Saturday, Oct. 19th, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and registration is now open.

For those traveling by car, note that the event coincides with the Head of the Charles Regatta which may result in additional traffic flow and travel time.  Additionally, the Longfellow Bridge is currently under construction and allows only one-way traffic from Cambridge to Boston (see detour map). For those travelling east on Memorial Drive and intending to use the left exit to Kendall Square, note that due to MIT construction, Wadsworth street is closed, but the detour on Ames Street to Amherst Street will lead you to the NERD building (see detour map).

Harvard Needs Your Help

Ok, with over a $32 billion endowment, Harvard doesn’t need your money, but about 10 students would benefit from just a bit of your time.

My colleagues (Michael Cummings, Edwin Guarin, Bob Familiar, and Lance McCarthy) are teaching a course on Modern Mobile Application Development using a Lean Startup approach. At this point in the course, the students are in the pre-launch phase of their marketing and development efforts, and we’re leveraging our networks to provide them some feedback.

For this first assignment, they are each building a game for Windows Phone using Construct 2, and the students have PreApps accounts to preview their application concepts to an audience of mobile application developers and enthusiasts. Visitors (like you) to PreApps can comment on the design and concepts as well as register to be notified when the application is published. It’s a great way to play a part in the Build-Measure-Learn cycle and help the students launch a more successful product.

I encourage you to visit their application landing pages, offer constructive and actionable comments, and follow them to the ultimate launch of their games in a few weeks.  Below are the profiles currently registered (more may be added over the next few days); just click the icons/links below and you can review and add your comments directly.

 

Koala Quest SmurfPlatformGame Kitchen Mess The Spins

Koala Quest

Smurf Platform Game

Kitchen Mess

The Spins

 

Preapps