”The Hollow Crown” – Extras

My eldest daughter returned home from school with a note saying that they were looking for children to audition as extras for the BBC and that she would like to go along.  So we (the family) combined this with existing plans to meet up with friends in town at the venue in question seemingly for coffees and a chat. Luckily on the day we arrived early and avoided much of the queues while the BBC processed over 500 potential extras for their major new season of Shakespeare plays – “The Hollow Crown”

Henry IV. Gloucester 2012

So some time passed and I got a phone call saying that if I was available the BBC could make use of me as an extra in a couple of upcoming films (Henry IV and Henry V).  Great,  that sounds interesting thought I and I went along the following Tuesday for a ‘fitting’.  This involved dressing up as a Nobleman, complete with heavy robes, wig and floppy hat!   Great fun!

imageOn the day of filming I met up with my friend and we spent the best part of 12 hours being made up then, for the most part, walking ‘in to places’, ‘through places’ and ‘out of places’ within (and without) the magnificent Gloucester Cathedral – many, many times over while the Director ensured that everything was up to the mark.

Highlight of the day was having the fortune to be the last extra walking out of Henry V’s last resting place.  As a result of this I was singled out for attention ‘as though I be an actor’ – I was the only extra in the scene (with a dead Tom Hiddleston / Henry V) who had indeed to ‘spring into action’* when the director called for the same (This I managed to do several times without tripping over).  That said, anyone who knows me will know that I don’t really care for being singled out for attention so when I noticed that John Hurt was standing next to the camera with eyes focused intently on me (or so it seemed) I nearly shat myself. Thank god all I had to do was walk a few paces! (Now most people when they think of John Hurt in an acting role will probably think of “The Elephant Man” or “Caligula” or even Quentin Crisp but for me the association is with one of my favorite films which goes all the way back to 1979 … Alien! )

On the set of Henry IV

In discussing the day my friend remarked that appearing in such a film, even as an extra, is a once in a  lifetime experience, and I have to agree, it was a fantastic day (albeit quite a tiring one, those robes were  heavy!).

Oh, and before anyone gets too excited about my being singled out for a starring role in the production, I am sad to say that all you will maybe see in the film is my legs, walking, albeit slowly, and then, I suspect, only very fleetingly …

UPDATE – 22/7/2012


Spotted myself around 2 minutes in then settled down to watch  the entire production & was in awe!  Very proud to have been a part of this great series of Shakespeare plays.


Ingestion Failure Example under 3.10.1

2I hadn’t come across this before but one of my recent Apps “Happy Families” failed ingestion under 3.10 with the following ingestion report:

3.10 Country/Region Specific Requirements


Requirements Expected Result
Content that is offensive in any country/region to
which your application is targeted is not allowed.
Content may be considered offensive in certain
countries/regions because of local laws or cultural
norms. Examples of potentially offensive content
in certain countries/regions include, but are not
limited to the following:

-People in revealing clothing or in sexually suggestive poses
-Religious references
-Alcohol references
-Sexual or bathroom humor
-Simulated or actual gambling

Countries/regions for which one or more parts of
3.10 may apply include the following:

Group 1: China
Group 2: Malaysia, Indonesia

I removed the 3 Countries from the list and resubmitted.

I understand what has happened here but would have preferred that the App was published with the offending Countries removed automatically, perhaps with a note supplied to me (or a ‘Warning’ submission report) outlining the issue.

I am guessing that fart machines might would also fail under 3.10.1?

Happy Families:


Flippin’ User Controls with Virtual Backsides …



A few people have asked what controls were used in the ‘Live Tile News’ app to create the ‘Flipping Live Tiles’ that feature on each page (If you haven’t tried this app yet then each page has a number of two sided tiles which can be flipped over with an upward – or downward, flick of the thumb).




The basic control is made up of a couple of standard list box controls for each panorama item page:

image(Click to enlarge)

Each ListBox is then populated with enough items to fill 1 screen (ie x2 – 1 for each side of the tile).  For this I used a user control but a template would work just as well.  The key to the flipping functionality is the transformation element, which sits on the root grid of the UserControl:


The “Rotator” element is manipulated by a couple of storyboards which site in the XAML immediately previous to the above:

image(Click to enlarge)

With the engineering in place all that is required now is to identify the gestures and trigger the storyboards and image switching as required:

NB The gestures are listened for using the ManipulationCompleted events which I set up in the constructor:

The Event handler that handles all the listbox manipulation events then has the responsibility of identifying the type of manipulation that has taken place by checking the relevant X & Y coordinates:

image(Click to enlarge)

If a ‘flip’ action is detected then, after setting a progressively slower storyboard start time dependent on the usercontrols’ (BBCTile) position within the ListBox, the user control’s  “StoryFlip” Storyboard action is triggered. 

NB Note that when this first storyboard action has completed the tile has travelled 90 degrees to the user and apears at that point to be invisible – the image on the tile is then switched before calling the second storyboard (Named “StoryFlipBack”) which finishes the rotation and shows the ‘virtual backside’ of the UserControl.

NB I am not convinced that the staggered start time has any real impact on the effectiveness on the transition.  At the time of writing I feel there is still opportunity to enhance the flipping effect such that it appears more natural!

In a future post I will look at the additional gesture that allows each tile to be added as a ‘Live Tile’ to the home screen.

The following Apps make use of this effect:

Indie Developers vs. XBOX Live Apps. My Story.

When I first started development for Windows Phone I remember excitedly travelling down to Microsoft in London for the day as I had the chance to test out my Apps on a real live Windows development phone!  At the time I had several Apps that I had developed in Silverlight with a view to porting to Windows Phone (this one made it, this one didn’t!).

One of the things that I heard tell of on this day was “turn by turn game play over the XBOX live network”.  Great! Thought I and envisaged playing ‘Shove Halfpenny’ with my in Laws in Dublin.  “Ahhh, but Xbox Live is reserved for ‘la crème de la crème’” I was told.  And that was pretty much that.

It’s no secret that the XBOX Live games are indeed ‘la crème de la crème’ and it is difficult (though not impossible) for independent developers to develop a successful XBOX Live enabled game.

So I guess those words ‘la crème de la crème’ have always bothered me a bit and I started to daydream about opportunities for independent developers like myself.  (Indeed, this was the thinking behind my series of blog posts on Marketing for Independent Developers last year).

But now there may be a glimmer of hope for us downtrodden indies, the faint glint of a tool that might help us in our toil.  What if we could harness the thing that singly differentiates and at the same time exemplifies what is great about Windows Phone? What might I be referring to?

The “Live Tile” of course!

Yes, Live Tiles are great, but how on earth do you find them?  You maybe find an App you like the sound of, then read the description hoping for an indication that it supports live tiles?.

But now there is …

The “Live Tile Browser” tm

What is it? Well its free, so the easiest thing to do if you are that way inclined is to download it and have a quick play:


If you would like to read a bit more, or perhaps participate by marketing your own Live tiles through the browser app and its sister site (http://LiveTiles.co.uk) there is another blog post with more information here: Live Tile Marketplace Browser

I would also really appreciate your feedback.  What do you think of the idea?  How can it be improved on?  Should MS be doing this?

Please let me know your thoughts.

Apps mentioned in this article:

App Roadmap

A few people have asked about plans around Live Tile Browser, App Aid, Live Tile News and related Apps so I thought I would take this opportunity to create an outline of current and future plans.

Live Tile News

This kicked off the whole ‘ChApp’ (Charity App) concept with all the developer proceeds from the two versions (ad and donation) going to charity.7

Windows Phone (available now)

  • Free Advertising Supported, full featured version
  • Donation Supported, full featured, no Ads

New version featuring improved (‘in place’) Live Tile selection currently on its way through ‘ingestion’ to the marketplace.

Next version features include personalised news live tiles (beyond the existing BBC categorisations)

Windows 8

A version is in simultaneous development for Windows 8 and will be available soon.  All the developer proceeds will also go to charity.

NB More information around Live Tile News is available here

App Aid

App Aid is a banner under which existing or new App developers who already or wish to donate a portion of their proceeds can come together and take advantage of pooled resources and promotion opportunities.

Plans for App Aid are outlined here and including a timetable for the rest of 2012.  If there is enough interest around the concept it is planned to bring it to other platforms.

Live Tile Browser

One of the most compelling features of Windows Phone is Live Tiles yet there is no single place where they are discoverable.  LTB represents the first step in making it easier for users to discover live tile based apps that might be of interest to them.


Windows Phone

A version for Windows phone was made available this week here.  More details about the app can be found here

Windows (Desktop)

A Silverlight 5 version of LTB is available here  (an HTML5 version is under development)

Windows 8 (Metro)

A metro based version is under development for Windows 8 with initial deliverable expected 1st quarter this year (2012).





News in Pictures, Live Tile Sports (I & II)


With the same great content as Live Tile News, News in Pictures focuses on maximising the benefit of photographs in quickly discerning the relevance of new news stories.  You can then go deep on the story reading the full article from the BBC web site.

Up t 8 Live Tiles featuring news related photography can be added to the users home screen based on subject topics of interest.

News in pictures is available here



Sport in Tiles 1 & 2 both give you the latest news on top sporting activities with up to 8 Live Tiles pin-able to your home page.

The latest pending updates allow you to pin tiles using a gesture on the list of tiles matching each sport.  A future upgrade is planned to allow you to enter a sport not already covered in the App (Feb timeframe)

Sport in Tiles I

Sport in Tiles II

Top Sports Top Sports
Football Athletics
Rugby Union Snooker
Rugby League Horse Racing
Tennis Cycling
Golf Disability Sport
Motorsport Other Sports
Boxing Olympics 2012

NB If it makes sense further down the line these apps will also make their way over to Windows 8 (with tablet use in mind)

Windows Phone Downloads mentioned in this article:

Announcing The Live Tile Marketplace Browser.

1Designed to compliment the existing Windows Phone App Marketplace the Live Tile Browser is an A-Z of Live Tiles from participating developers for Windows Phone 7. And with a launch Live Tile count of nearly 200 Live Tiles this free App looks to be an indispensable guide when looking for new and interesting Apps for your phone!

How does it work?

Simply download the app and peruse the Live Tiles, if you see something you like tap the tile to be taken to marketplace listing of the associated App. If you like the App simply download it to your phone to use the live tile on your home screen.

NB New Live Tiles magically appear in the browser as they become available (new tiles have a red dot in the top right hand corner of the tile making it easy to identify the latest  offerings in the marketplace.)

The Live Tile Browser is available free now:


Developer API for Live Tile Browser

An Azure based API is currently in planning for this App to allow Independent Windows Phone Developers to easily add their own Live tiles to this App and to the associated Web Site (http://LiveTiles.co.uk) and Windows 8 Metro based App (TBA)

If you are interested in such an opportunity please contact the author or leave a comment below.

Get it for free, then show 3

Heads up, I am not a marketeer, I don’t think I am even a very good ‘people person’ (typical geek I guess). Notwithstanding I want to convince you (and that guy in Nigeria) that there is such a thing as a “win-win scenario”

With apologies if this post comes across like I am trying to sell you something.

WIN 1: How do you win?

1. You get to download a great App for free  “Live Tile News”.

2. You get to feel good about yourself as you are supporting charity by being involved.

WIN 2: How does Charity win?

All the advertising proceeds go to charity!

WIN 3: How do I win?

Like you, I get to feel good about myself (quite handy right now).

Get it for free, then show 3?

If you like the App please show it to 3 friends, (and they might be tweet, mail and Facebook, or they could be actual people!)

Don’t have a Windows Phone?

What are you waiting for? My current suggestion is the Nokia Lumia 800 but if you are on a tight budget, try this

NB AN update that allows you to add tiles from the news item list itself is currently going through the ingestion process (other new features as well, but that one is kind of cool)

Announcing the launch of “App Aid”

Well, the saying goes that from small acorns … so begins “App Aid” (Hopefully the name speaks for itself.) 

Currently App Aid only represents a contribution of income from my own apps, so that is where I will start. The hope is that this could mushroom into something supported by other developers and platforms.

My first contribution towards App Aid comes in the form of “Live Tile News”, the innovative new news App that features up to 8 ‘Live tiles’ of topic based news as well as a novel panorama based UI with multiple layered icons.

I am giving all the proceeds (sales and advertising income) from this app to charity. 

I also have a monthly timetable planned for 2012 whereby a percentage of the sales from designated Apps for each month will also go to charity. 

At the moment the timetable for 2012 looks like this:

  Month App Percentage of income dontated
Jan “Live Tile News”
”Live Tile News (Premium)”
100% *
Feb “Apple Watch” 50%
Mar “Orchestrator” 50%
Apr “Gadget Watch” 50%
May “The King’s Speech” 50%
Jun “Ultimate Fart” 50%
Jul “Torch / Flashlight” 50%
Aug “Live Tile Sports” 50%
Sep Nokia Watch 50%
Oct “Live Tile Sports II” 50%
Nov “Ambient Soundscape” 50%
Dec “Snap”


* On-going Forever

Please be as supportive as you can, Tweet and Facebook this message to your followers (see buttons below) and download Live Tile News (Free) or Live Tile News (Donation) to your Windows Phone.

Thank You!