Modern Jago – Design Labs

I got to spend the day at Modern Jago yesterday on day 1 of a two day design oriented event (I cannot make day 2 but that is a whole other story). 

Modern Jago is nestled amongst a village of designer clothes shops, art house cinemas, T-Shirt presses and independent publishing houses in the ‘trendy’ (if that is still a word) area of Shoreditch in London.  Not the easiest of places to get to if like me you are based in the sticks a long way outside London but when you do finally get there you are rewarded with an atmosphere and community of people with a passion for promoting and fostering the growth of software design around the new raft of Microsoft technologies (Windows 8 / Phone / Azure etc) .

As a developer with no formal training in design (Unless you count an 80’s ‘A’ level!) I was curious to know what this course might be able to do for me in my own little development world.  You see I personally believe that one of the basic problems that developers (programmers) face is an inherent difference in the way that they approach application development.  While designers focus (naturally) on ‘design’ most programmers will focus (quite rightly) on ‘function’.  Nowadays that approach doesn’t really pass muster and the current trend is to encourage programmers to think a lot more about design.

Windows 8 UX Design Camp

The agenda for the event covers a series of speaker lead workshops around design oriented topics, conducted in such a way as to encourage you to think about how each aspect of design relates to your own personal plans for a Windows 8 project:

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I was just in the process of submitting a ‘new’ App that had come about largely as a result of feedback received from an existing App I had in the store.  If you will allow me to digress for a paragraph or two I will explain how this App came about and perhaps shed some insight on how a developers (programmers) mind differs from a designers!!

First of all my initial focus for developing an App was not, as some might assume, to develop an App “so profoundly useful and stunning in its design as it would rock the very foundation of the App store”, (though, of course that would be nice).  No, my ‘real world’ objective was simply to learn how to develop Windows 8 Apps – essentially so that I can go on and earn some money (and feed my kids). 

And did I have all the App’s design objectives up front?  Did I f@#k

Here is how it went down:

1. I had a mildly successful Windows Phone App called ‘Live Tile news’ that i thought I would bring to Windows 8 :

LIVE TILE NEWS

2. It occurred to me that I could build on this Apps foundation and develop a complimentary ‘Sports App’ by simply changing the underlying data source and adding complimentary graphics:

LIVE TILE SPORT

3. I got a lot of negative reviews from the USA for this App as it didn’t cover popular US sports (this is because the feeds originate from the UK).  So I did two things as a result; Firstly I made a note to source some suitable US based sporting information for a future version of this App and secondly, so that ‘all was not lost’ i developed a UK specific version:

UK SPORT

4. I used this App as my ‘personal App’ when working through the various labs and in discussions with session presenters at Modern Jago.   Now I have to say that one of the presenters was very subtly but very assuredly a little dismissive of this ‘App idea’   and went on to extoll the virtues of Microsoft’s’ own Sports App.  Now this may have all been in my imagination but either way it served a very useful purpose in getting me to think about how I might differentiate my App from other Sports related Apps in the store*  BANG!  I had a flash of inspiration and a new App idea was born!  (I will add the link to this new App below once it reaches the store – give me a week or two!)

<PLACEHOLDER>

So what struck me about the ethos of the design process that we were covering was two fold.  First of all the long standing approach is to think out all your requirements ‘up front’ (indeed, we covered a very useful approach for doing just that as the first exercise of the day!) and it occurred to me that if i had done this thoroughly I could have avoided 1, 2, 3 and 4 above!!  BUT, (and it is a big but) if I had done this I maybe would have thrown out the Baby’s toys with the bathwater as these Apps would not have seen the light of day.  So I guess what I am saying is that when the requirements process is complete perhaps this shouldn’t be the end of the requirements process?  If the ‘new idea’ is sufficiently different from the ideas behind the existing App then why not use them to develop a variation on the existing App that encompasses those ‘new requirements’?

Technology Solutions

This leads me to another of my pet foibles (and please forgive me for digressing again).  Nowadays the term ‘Technology Solutions’ is considered a ‘dirty term’  (It implies the process of ‘finding a solution for a bit of technology that currently exists’).  I personally find this a very useful tool !  (What!!?)  Hold on a minute I hear you say! ….  Don’t get me wrong, yes, it should probably play second fiddle to any business-lead requirements but should it really be the object of disdain that it so often appears to be?  I think not!   This approach has personally furnished me with ideas that have lead to being ‘real business requirements’ (rather than just technology lead requirements) on many occasions.  How so?  Well a common response to these kinds of ideas when put to ‘the business’ is ‘Oh, I never thought of that’ or even ‘Oh, I didn’t;t know you could do that’.  (On occasion I have even included these kinds of ideas into prototype applications with a very positive response.)   So I guess my ‘off topic’  point here is, don’t ever  assume that geeks don’t have valuable input to contribute!

My thanks to Chris Mayo, Andrew Spooner and the other presenters for such a useful and enjoyable event (and to Cristina for handling admin).  Lastly I think all us developers owe a debt of gratitude to Jaime and the rest of the team at Modern Jago (http://modernjago.co.uk/about/) .  I look forward to having such a space within striking distance of my home town at some point in the future!

NB You can check out upcoming events at Modern Jago here.

Microsoft BUILD 2012 – Tips

With the announcement of BUILD 2012 I thought I would put together a list of tips – mainly aimed at fellow developers from the UK but there may be something here for everyone!

Accommodation

If you are on a tight budget and can book early try the Homestead Suites.   It is next to the Microsoft Campus and very reasonably priced (especially if you can book for a week).

I have also stayed at the Extended Stay America – there are a couple within a short drive of the Campus, again cheaper if you stay for at least 7 days. 

Both the above are self catering and include a basic Kitchen complete with utensils/cutlery/fridge/hob & cooker (and WiFi access).

NB Don’t be tempted to go ‘real cheap’ and stay too far away from Redmond / BelleVue.  The traffic gets really bad around Seattle and you may live to regret it – especially if you are a little jet lagged! (I speak from experience!)

On Campus

February 2003 012Try and find a friendly Softee to show you around.  I have been lucky in the past and have seen a few ‘geek treasures’ that I would never have found (or had access to) myself.

(Work in Progress)

Nokia World 2011

For me this event marks a potential starting point for Nokia’s entry into my own development related world.  Sure I have owned a spate of Nokia handsets in the past, but that’s not what I‘m talking 2about.  For some time now there has been an excitement in the Windows Phone Development Community about the impact and opportunities that a collaboration between two giants, Microsoft and Nokia might bring.  What will it mean tor the likes of humble independent phone app developers?  Nobody is quite certain but the expectation is palpable!

“NOKIA Watch” was released shortly after the announcement  that NOKIA is to focus it’s future energies on the Windows Phone platform.  It is a simple, but pleasing App that takes the best of newsfeeds, blogs and videos from across the web and serves them up using the popular panoramic based control. 

I look forward to the day when I can see this App running on a NOKIA device and yes, I would love that day to be October 26th and yes, I would love to be holding a Nokia phone, running my App on Windows Phone, standing amongst a group of my piers in the ExCel Conference Centre in London!

Windows Phone codenamed “Mango” Training Course

Thought I would blog my first thoughts about this course which I downloaded yesterday at the UKTechDays event in London (Jaime Rodriguez was speaking at this event)

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My own objectives were pretty much the same as those of the course itself and revolved around becoming familiar with the major new aspects of Mango from a development perspective:

Learning about the APIs for compass, gyro, camera and a virtual motion sensor

Take advantage of the new multi-tasking capabilities such as fast app switching, background agents, alerts and reminders

Learning about the Improved integration with the phone(Live tiles, Bing search extras, Bing maps, and the new calendar and contacts APIs)

The course itself is broken up into categories that revolve largely around a rather fantastic “ToDo” type application that  Jaime covered in his UKTechDays Mango conference talk .

One of my questions at TechDays was – ‘Where is the best place to get code examples for the new Mango Features’.  I think Jaime unwittingly answered this question when he put up the url for this training kit!  While some of the examples are a little contrived (You probably don’t need to use SQL CE for such a small data store for instance)  the overall kit is excellent and I would wholeheartedly recommend it as your starting point for Mango development!

3D Modelling In Windows Phone (Mango)

Download the Training Kit

Watch Jaime’s talk at the UK TechDays event  (TBA)

Marketing Your Apps

Having a go at the final (I believe) chapter of Mike Ormond’s book:

Outline for the chapter is presently as follows:

Arming Yourself

  • The theory behind marketing.
  • Making your App work for you.
  • Quotes from experts and successful developers.
  • Readiness Checklist.

Spreading the Word

  • From the safety of your bedroom:
    • Using a Blog
    • Using Twitter
    • Using YouTube
    • Getting your App reviewed
    • In App Advertising
    • Marketing on the web
    • Gorilla Marketing
  • Going out into the world:
    • People skills
    • User groups
    • Conferences (Mix, PDC etc.)
    • Government Initiatives
    • Microsoft Initiatives (BizTalk, MSDN etc.)

Tracking your progress

    • Marketplace Reports
    • Analytics (Peoplesoft etc)
    • Third Party Sites (EG zTop and Phone Apps)

Please leave a comment or get in touch if you have any interesting or useful stories around Marketing your own Apps (they don’t necessarily have to be  WP7 based) .

My plan is to make each of the above sections a blog entry – hopefully I will get some feedback this way and improve on things before submitting for approval into the book.

Thanks,

 

Ian.

“Ambient Soundscape”

Red Gate Large

Well it was touch and go getting the app through the ingestion process in time but this morning I am pleased to announce that ‘Ambient Soundscape’ is available on the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace:

http://social.zune.net/redirect?type=phoneApp&id=f4859464-e72a-e011-854c-00237de2db9e

With over 40 distinct sound sources available as a starting point ‘Ambient Soundscape’ can be used to develop sophisticated tonal compositions.  The built in multi-track step edit recorder can be used to store and playback compositions or individual sequences with full control over individual sounds volume, frequency and pan position within the stereo field.

Recording Sequences

Four - Copy

The initial screen first provides guidance as to the capabilities available within the step edit sequencer, then, as sequences are recorded becomes the launching point for each individual sequence.

 

 

Three - Copy

The step edit sequencer facilitates the touch entry of individual sounds and provides a keyboard for changes in frequency (pitch) of each individual note.  In addition a sub menu provides control over the relative volume and pan position.

 

Arranging Songs

Two - Copy

 

The next screen provides guidance for song arrangements, and as compositions are arranged and saved in the subsequent screen, becomes the launching point for individual compositions.

 

Five - Copy

When sequences are saved in the preceding screen they become available for arrangement into songs by dragging and dropping them in the arrangement screen. Sequences can then be stored on the phone as songs for subsequent playback (or additional editing)

 

Additional features include live playback of sounds, control over each sounds positioning within the step edit sequencer and the ‘sound pad’ screen (not shown).  In addition the base volume, pitch and stereo pan position (i.e. the starting point for each sound) can be set prior to the composition process taking place.

Ambient Soundscape is available now for Windows Phone 7 based devices priced at $4.99

http://social.zune.net/redirect?type=phoneApp&id=f4859464-e72a-e011-854c-00237de2db9e

Windows Phone 7 Launch Apps.

Thought it appropriate to quickly précis  some of the apps for windows phone 7 that I am submitting to the marketplace for launch today (more to follow in the coming weeks).

In the main, todays offerings centre around a music based performance engine that has been developed for the platform using Silverlight and XNA.

 

Metro drummer

A full featured drum machine offering over 50 high quality samples with live, sequence and song based screens.

More here: http://rd3d2.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/metro-drummer/

 

drums and bass

A logical progression from Metro Drummer that adds the ability to compose drum tracks combined with a bass line, often the perfect accompaniment to a vocal and acoustic guitar based composition.

More here: http://rd3d2.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/drums-bass/

 

jamster

The sister product to Metro drummer with musical, rather than percussion based samples.

More here: http://rd3d2.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/jamster/

 

songster

A marriage of Metro Drummer and Jamster providing additional opportunities for fun and composition.

More here: http://rd3d2.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/songster/

 

Flashlight / Torch

Possibly the most useful of all the apps in the marketplace, turns your phone into a torch.

 

Shove ha’penny

the classic pub game for the UK brought to life for Windows Phone with multiple boards, coin types and players.

More here: http://rd3d2.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/shove-halfpenny-shove-hapenny/

 

I will be posting videos of these apps running on my LG GW910 device just as soon as I get a little time.

Mix 10

Not at Mix this year but testament to my geekness I was watching Scott Guthrie on the live feed – they asked for questions, I fired mine off on twitter and the Gu answered.  How cool is that?

Gu

DDD South West (2)

Missed the last event but hope to catch this one:

DDDSouthWest2BadgeLarge[1]

 

STOP PRESS:  Just submitted a proposal for a session so might be speaking:

This session will cover all aspects of the development of the public Silverlight based web site http://FromTheMalverns.com.  Beginning with the background to the content on the site, how and why it came about moving through the technical aspects of preparing the content and finally how the site was put together to show the content in interesting and dynamic ways using Silverlight.  Along the way I will also cover the following:

  •  
    •  
      • What’s happening with Windows Mobile 7 development and Silverlight
      • How to host a SIlverlight Application for free.
      • Some options for getting web stats for a SIlverlight Application.
      • Geocoding data then quickly displaying it in the web site.

Windows 7 Training kit Available

Overview

 The Windows 7 Training Kit for Developers includes presentations, hands-on labs, and demos. This content is based on Windows 7 RTM and it is designed to help you learn how to build applications that are compatible with and shine on Windows 7 by utilizing key Windows 7 features such as:

  • Taskbar
  • Libraries
  • Multi Touch
  • Sensors and Location
  • Ribbon
  • Trigger Start Services
  • Instrumentation and ETW
  • Application Compatability

And Application Compatibility topics such as:

  • Version Checking
  • UAC Data Redirection
  • Session 0 Isolation
  • Installer Detection
  • User Interface Privilege Isolation
  • High DPI

Download Here:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=1c333f06-fadb-4d93-9c80-402621c600e7&displaylang=en