July 2010

TechDays Vancouver: September 14 - 15

If you’re planning on TechDays Vancouver, your window for the early bird price of CDN$349.99 plus tax expires on Tuesday, August 3rd. After that, the price jumps up to almost twice that. Save yourself some money by not procrastinating – register for TechDays Vancouver now!

Remember the TechDays formula:

techdays formula
Want to know more about the sessions at this year’s TechDays? Take a look at our sessions page.

Once again, register for TechDays Vancouver before the early bird price expires!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Building Tapworthy Apps for Windows Phone 7

by Joey deVilla on July 30, 2010

tapworthy

I’m going to throw you a curve ball right now: if you want to develop apps for Windows Phone 7, one of the must-read books is one written for iPhone developers and designers. It’s Tapworthy, written by Josh Clark and published by O’Reilly.

While Tapworthy was written with people building apps for The Esteemed Competition’s phone in mind, much of it is applicable to WP7 developers and designers. That’s because it’s not about the act of programming, nor is it about marketing phone apps. It’s about creating applications that are useful, usable and delight your users. It’s about good application design, understanding your users’ situation, wants and needs, and what separates “just good enough” from “awesomesauce”. As the book says in its introduction:

You’ll learn how to conceive and refine your app’s design in tune with the needs of a mobile audience—and their fingers and thumbs. Designing a handheld device that works by touch is entirely different from designing any other kind of software interface. Experienced designers and newcomers alike will uncover the shifts in mindset and technique required to craft a great app.

I could write about what I think about Tapworthy, but the folks at Rainy Day Engineering put it so well that I’ll just leave it to them:

If you are about to embark upon designing your first commercial mobile app, stop what you’re doing, buy this book, read it, and then proceed with your design efforts. It will save you countless hours of headaches, frustrations, and dead ends. If you have been building mobile apps for a while and have not had the success you think should be yours, then this book may have some suggestions to help you get better returns on your development dollars. If you are looking to kick up your UI designing game a few notches, then you should stop what you are doing, log on to Amazon, and order a copy immediately. You can certainly read this book from cover to cover in one sitting, but we are certain you will be returning to it again and again.

Tapworthy is a great companion book to the Windows Phone UI Design and Interaction Guide (which you should absolutely download if you’re building WP7 apps). Follow the advice in both books, and you’ll be making WP7 apps that people will want and download. Tapworthy is available in dead-tree or ebook form from O’Reilly; you can also get it from Chapters/Indigo, Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

Tapworthy: it’s the Windows Phone 7 book that doesn’t know it’s a Windows Phone 7 book!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Telus Tells Us The Unvarnished Truth [Updated]

by Joey deVilla on July 28, 2010

I’ve got to hand it to Canadian telco Telus, who tell it like it is on their web page:

why do i need a credit check

(Click here to see the page, and scroll down to the “Why do I need a credit check?” section to see it for yourself.)

I like their forthrightness. My only complaint with their explanation is that “deadbeat” is one word,
not two.

Update: Wow, that didn’t take long – they’ve excised that section.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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What’s Happening with Windows Phone 7 [Updated]

by Joey deVilla on July 28, 2010

windows phone 7

Update: I added links to official Windows Phone 7 documentation.

And now, a quick wrap-up of what’s happening with Windows Phone 7. (What you see above is my phone in my hand, as seen from my point of view at Café Novo, one of my “remote offices” in Toronto.)

In this article, I cover:

  • General in-person reactions by people trying out Windows Phone 7
  • The developer tools
  • The upcoming Windows Phone 7 Bootcamp by DevTeach and DreamDigital
  • Resources, including the most complete list of upcoming Windows Phone 7 books that I know of
  • A little bit about Marketplace and how we plan to help you market your apps.

Read on for more!

Windows Phone 7 Makes a Splash at Tweetgasm

tweetgasm

On Monday night, I attended a monthly event called Tweetgasm, which took place in Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel. As the name of the event implies, it’s a gathering of Twitter users, and as expected, a good chunk of the people who came work in tech, internet marketing and that emerging business called “social media”.

Then came the inevitable question: “So is it true that you’ve got a Windows Phone?”

I pulled it out from my pocket, unlocked it, and said “Want to take it for a spin?”

I spent the better part of an hour letting people put my phone through its paces. From this experience, it became quite clear that seeing photos of WP7’s minimalistic interface and actually experiencing it “up close and personal” are two very different creatures.

“It’s really responsive,” was a common refrain as they tried out the touch screen. The touch response of the phone feels right. People got a kick out of flicking their way around the various hubs and pinch-zooming in both the browser and my photo collection.

“It’s easy to read!” was another common response. “Nice and clean, and what’s that font?”

(It’s “Segoe WP”, a variant of “Segoe UI”, which comes with Windows Vista and 7. You get Segoe WP when you download the WP7 developer tools. Hardcore typography nerds might want to check out Wikipedia’s entry on Segoe.)

“All right, Joey,” said a couple of developers who built apps for other platforms, “how do we get in on building for this phone?” I have their contact info, and I’ll be talking with them very soon.

And how do you get in on building for WP7 if you didn’t get my business card at Tweetgasm? Step one is simple: drop me a line.

Get the Windows Phone 7 Beta Developer Tools

tools

If you want to get started building apps for WP7, your first step is to download the tools. The tools recently made the leap from CTP (“Community Technology Preview”) to beta. The developer tools are free-as-in-beer and based on the excellent Visual Studio IDE.

click here to download wp7 developer tools beta

Here’s what you get with the tools:

  • Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone (beta). The development environment, debugger and compiler – it’s where you’ll be coding.
  • Windows Phone Emulator (beta). So you can take your apps for a test run. It works with touch screens, too – I use it with my touch screen-equipped laptop (a Dell Latitude XT2) all the time.
  • Microsoft Expression Blend for Windows Phone (beta). An interface designer that makes it easier to build the UIs for Silverlight-based phone apps. Used in tandem with Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, it makes building gorgeous apps a much quicker process.
  • Silverlight for Windows Phone (beta). One of the programming frameworks for WP7, this one is better suited for building event-driven “application”-style apps.
  • XNA Game Studio for Windows Phone (beta). The other programming framework for WP7, this game loop-driven framework is better suited for game development. It’s based on XNA Game Studio, which lets you build games for Xbox 360 and Windows.

Two Days of Intensive Hands-On Training at the Windows Phone 7 Bootcamp

bootcamp

Our friends at DevTeach and DreamDigital have teamed up to offer an intensive two-day “bootcamp” covering WP7 development in four Canadian cities later this summer:

  • Montreal: Monday, August 23 and Tuesday, August 24 at the Microsoft office
  • Vancouver: Monday, August 30 and Tuesday, August 31 at the Sutton Place Hotel
  • Ottawa: Thursday, September 2 and Friday, September 3 at the Microsoft office
  • Toronto: Tuesday, September 7 and Wednesday, September 8 at Microsoft’s downtown office

The bootcamp course will be taught by Colin Melia, who’s who’s presented at TechDays, wrote the Silverlight demo app that we used for the EnergizeIT tour and is one of our go-to guys for Windows Azure – simply put, the guy knows his stuff. If you’re looking to kick-start your WP7 development, there isn’t a course more hardcore than this one.

The registration fee is CDN$999 for the full-day training session, and you can save $100 by using the discount code WP7BOOTCAMP when you register. I repeat:

save100withWPBOOTCAMPcode

For the full details on the Windows Phone 7 Bootcamp, see the Windows Phone 7 Bootcamp page.

Where Can I Find Out More About Windows Phone 7?

guidance

joey wp7 accordion

Yours Truly and This Blog

For starters, there’s me (that’s me on the right, with the accordion with the “I love Windows Phone” stickers on it). I’m one of the designated “Windows Phone Champs”, and it’s my job to make it easier for you to write Windows Phone 7 apps. With my fellow champs Paul Laberge and Jamie Wakeam, I’ll be writing articles, organizing workshops, getting you the latest technical, user experience and marketing info you need, provisioning developer phones and doing whatever it takes to help you become a successful WP7 developer. Our success is going to be measured by your success.

Want to keep track of me and all the stuff I’m doing for Windows Phone developers? Check out the following:

  • I’ll be posting about WP7 quite regularly on this blog, so keep it bookmarked and come back often!
  • Follow me on Twitter: I’m @AccordionGuy.
  • Have you been working on a WP7 app using the development tools and emulator and are wondering what the next step is? You probably want to email me. Let’s talk!

Official Windows Phone 7 Documentation

The official docs are always a good starting point. Make sure you check out all these links!

Windows Phone Developer Blog

In addition to this blog, be sure to check out these blogs that cover WP7 development:

Books

There are a number of WP7 books in the works, including the ones listed below:

windows phone 7 unleashed

Windows Phone 7 Unleashed by Daniel Vaughan and published by Sams. He posted a quick blog entry about it earlier today.

beginning windows phone 7 development

Beginning Windows Phone 7 Development by Henry Lee and published by Apress.

pro windows phone 7 development

Pro Windows Phone 7 Development by Rob Cameron and published by Apress.

windows phone 7 game development

Windows Phone 7 Game Development by Adam Dawes and published by Apress. Here’s his blog entry on the book.

learning windows phone game programming

Learning Windows Phone Programming by Yochay Kiriaty and Jaime Rodriguez and published by O’Reilly. You can download a free 50-page PDF “sampler” of the book.

programming windows phone 7

Programming Windows Phone 7 by Charles Petzold and published by Microsoft Press. You can download a sampler of the book in PDF or XPS format, along with source code.

windows phone 7 application development using silverlight

Windows Phone 7 Application Development Using Silverlight by Corey Schuman and published by Addison-Wesley Professional.

xna game studio 4.0 programming

XNA Game Studio 4.0 Programming: Developing for Windows Phone and Xbox Live by Tom Miller and Dean Johnson and published by Addison-Wesley Professional.

wrox

There are also a couple of books coming out from Wrox that don’t have cover designs yet:

Promoting Your Apps in Marketplace

market 
Building WP7 apps is half the job; the other half is selling them in the Marketplace. We’re working on ways to help you market your applications, from articles explaining what works and what doesn’t (based on research and studying what works and what doesn’t for other mobile platforms), putting the spotlight on Canadian WP7 developers and their apps and sessions like Anthony Bartolo’s upcoming “Turbo Talk” at TechDays, where he’ll talk about Windows Phone Marketplace and how to get the most out of it.

Are you working on apps for Windows Phone 7? Make sure I (and through me, the rest of Microsoft Canada’s WP7 team) know about it – drop me a line!

Movin’ on Up

upward 
As a complete reboot and from-the-ground-up rethinking of Microsoft’s approach to mobile, Windows Phone 7 gives you a unique opportunity to get in on the ground floor, make a splash and be a rock star. Albert Shum’s new UI design makes it stand apart from other mobile OSs, and whenever I show my phone to people, they’re impressed by it. The new programming models – Silverlight and XNA offer a lot of power and flexibility, and I personally find programming with them and in C# far more pleasant that the options offered by The Esteemed Competition. As you’ll see in the coming weeks and months, The Empire is putting all sorts of resources behind WP7, and a lot of developers are coming along for the ride.

We’re movin’ on up – join us!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Limbo

by Joey deVilla on July 27, 2010

I’ve been spending summer playing a couple of Xbox 360 games situated in dark nightmare worlds. One is Microsoft Studios’ and Remedy’s Alan Wake, which could be described as an homage to Stephen King (so much so that they name-drop him in the opening credits); the other is Limbo, an Xbox Live Arcade game: 

Calling Limbo a “2-D side-scroller game” does it as much injustice as referring to Red Dead Redemption as “a cowboy third-person shooter”. Limbo is the most gorgeous and haunting side-scroller I’ve ever played.

The world of Limbo is a monochromatic one, shrouded in gloom and fog and nothing but the game itself. The screenshot below shows what the game actually looks like while you’re playing:

Limbo screenshot: the boys runs towards some rolling flaming logs

No heads-up display, score or distractions of any kind: it’s just you and Limbo’s world. The controls are minimal – you just use the left thumbstick to move, the A button to jump and the B button to perform actions on things (typically push or pull objects). Where Limbo goes deep is gameplay – this game really sucks you in.

Limbo screenshot: the boy comes across a body hanging from a noose
You control your character, a young boy who wakes up in a dark forest, with no idea what’s going on. There’s no opening cinematic, no explanatory text, no little pop-up hints, but somehow the game manages to convey a sense of what to do next solely through the way the game reacts to your actions. The developers, Playdead – an indie game dev shop in Copenhagen – did an amazing job in programming Limbo to communicate just through gameplay.

Limbo screenshot: The body travels across a body of water in a boat

With its black-and-white graphics, smooth animation, minimal sound (you only hear things you need to hear) and the many, many ghoulish ways your character will die as you learn to navigate the game’s many deadly puzzles and traps, Limbo feels like the sort of ghastly-but-addictive game that Edward Gorey might have conjured up, had he decided to take up programming rather than becoming an illustrator.

Limbo screenshot: the boy encounters a pit filled with spikes and two children bearing spears

As of this writing, Limbo has a Metacritic score of 90, placing it just below Super Street Fighter IV and Red Dead Redemption, having earned heaps of praise from all sorts of reviewers, including this one.

Limbo may just be the best Xbox Live Arcade game ever released, and I suspect it’ll be in my “Top 5” for 2010. If you’re looking for a stand-out game for your Xbox 360, Limbo is well worth the 1200 Microsoft Points.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Vacation’s Over

by Joey deVilla on July 25, 2010

geek vacation

…and regular posting will resume shortly.

(No, this photo isn’t mine, nor is it representative of the food I had, but I thought it was a good “geek vacation” photo. I ate better and met some interesting people. You can click the photo to see it at full size in its junk food, video game nerdy glory.)

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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On Vacation

by Joey deVilla on July 19, 2010

on vacation

Blog postings are going to be light until Monday, July 26th, because I’m taking a real, honest-to-goodness, shut-off-the-computer, get-away-from-home vacation! If you’re looking for reading material, may I suggest:

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