Recommended: “Introducing HTML5”

Cover of "Introducing HTML5"

If you’re looking for a nice, readable, non-stuffy, example-rich book to help you get started with HTML 5, I suggest checking out Bruce Lawton’s and Remy Sharp’s Introducing HTML 5. Covered in its chapters are:

  • Page structure
  • Text and structuring main content areas
  • Forms
  • Video and audio
  • Canvas
  • Data storage
  • Running while offline
  • Drag and drop
  • Geolocation
  • Messages, workers and sockets

I picked up the book this past weekend and have been enjoying it, as have the reviewers on Amazon, who’ve given it an average rating of four and a half stars.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Windows Phone 7 Developer Guide from Microsoft Patterns and Practices

windows phone 7 developer guide

There’s a group at Microsoft called Patterns and Practices whose job is to provide developers with guidance and advice on the best ways to write software for our platforms. If you visit their site, you’ll find material to help you make better software design and technology selection decisions, understand important concepts that will help you get the job done and even get some “best practices” code to get you started.

If you’re developing for Windows Phone 7, you’ll want to check out Patterns and Practices’ Windows Phone 7 Developer Guide, which covers recommended ways to build WP7 apps with Silverlight and how to take advantage of of web- and cloud-based services. It’s the perfect follow-up to any of the “Intro to Windows Phone 7” books – Charles Petzold’s WP7 book is a good start, and it’s free, too – once you’ve got a handle on the basics, you’ll want to read it. It builds on a scenario in which Tailspin, a fictitious company building a WP7 client for an existing cloud-based application and covers building a mobile client, using services on the phone, connecting with services and interacting with Windows Marketplace.

Windows Phone 7 Developer Guide is available in a couple of forms:

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Get “ASP.NET 4.0 in Practice” Ebook for $15 (Tuesday, January 25th Only)

Cover of "ASP.NET 4.0 in Practice"

Manning Publications’ book deal of the day is for ASP.NET 4.0 in Practice. For today only (Tuesday, January 25th), you can get the ebook version for a mere USD$15 if you enter dotd0125 in the Promotional Code box when you check out. It’s one of their MEAP (Manning Early Access Program) books, which means it’s still a work in progress; buying it means you get the latest revision as well as the final version once it’s done.

Here’s the description of the book:

ASP.NET is an established technology to build web applications using Microsoft products. It drives a number of enterprise-level web sites around the world, but it can be scaled for projects of any size. The new version 4.0 is an evolutionary step: you will find a lot of new features that you will be able to leverage to build better web applications with minimal effort.

ASP.NET 4.0 in Practice contains real world techniques from well-known professionals who have been using ASP.NET since the first previews. Using a practical Problem-Solution-Discussion format, it will guide you through the most common scenarios you will face in a typical ASP.NET application, and provide solutions and suggestions to take your applications to another level.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


MIX11: Las Vegas, April 12–14 / Vote for Canadian Sessions at MIX!

mix11 banner

Microsoft’s MIX conference, which typically takes place early in the spring, bills itself as being about “The Next Web”. I prefer to refer to it as Microsoft’s most right-brained conference, the one for the creatives, the design-oriented and the late-night hackers who love to tinker and experiment. It’s also where big announcements are made: last year, MIX was where we all found out about Silverlight 4, Internet Explorer 9 and Windows Phone 7.

Audience at the day 1 keynote of MIX10

This year’s MIX conference – MIX11 – takes place from April 12th through 14th in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. It promises to be an interesting one, with lots of informative sessions, great people in attendance and there’s always the chance that they’ll make one or two announcements that might take you by surprise. As one of the people on the developer evangelism team who’s “The MIX type”, I’ll be going, attending lots of sessions (especially the phone ones), taking copious notes and posting them here.

Of course, you can always cut me out of the middleman role and go attend MIX yourself! If you’re into web and mobile development or looking to get into them, MIX is a great conference to attend. There are the sessions and boot camps, of course, but a good chunk of what makes MIX special is the opportunity to catch up with the people at Microsoft who help make the web and phone technologies as well as developers, designers, UX pros and suits who are behind some of the biggest and best web sites and phone apps out there.

If you register before February 11th, you can save a lot of money. The early bird discount is amazing – early registrants will:

  • Save $500 off the cost of registration (Until February 11th, the price is USD$895. After February 11th, it goes up to the regular rate of USD$1395).
  • Get a free hotel night when you book two or more nights at the Mandalay Bay hotel.

Want to find out more? Visit MIX11’s Registration page.

Joey deVilla and Bill Buxton at the MIX10 party

Canada made a strong showing at MIX last year. Onstage, we had Microsoft Principal Research Bill Buxton, who gave a great metaphor-rich keynote about designing technology to fit humans, and Albert Shum, who talked about the great UI he designed for Windows Phone 7. We also had a great group of Canadians come along with us, including RedBit Development’s Mark Arteaga and Barranger Ridler, Nascent’s Shawn Konopinsky, Nitobi’s Filip Maj, Laurent Duveau, Louis-Philippe Pinsonneault and the guys from RunAtServer, Barry Gervin and Bruce Johnson from ObjectSharp and Ace of Cloud’s Colin Melia, to name a few.

This year, Canada’s already making a strong showing in the open call for sessions. A number of Canadian developers – many of whom you might have seen at TechDays – have submitted presentations for MIX11 and it’s now time to vote for the one you’d like to see at MIX. I’d love to see a strong showing from Canada onstage this year – after all, we’ve been punching above our weight class in the tech arena ever since Alexander Graham Bell.

Here are the presentations for the open call that were submitted by Canadian geeks, a number of whom have more than one submission in the pile:

(Did I miss any Canadian submissions? If I did, please drop me a line and let me know!)

    Vote for these Canadian submissions in the MIX11 Open Call! I’d love to see Canada make its mark on MIX11 and give these hard-working Canadian developers a boost. Vote now – the call for open voting for sessions ends at midnight Pacific (3 a.m. Eastern) on Friday, February 4th.

    This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


    Coffee and Code at Cloud: Wednesday, January 26th

    coffee and code at cloud

    The first Toronto Coffee and Code of 2011 takes place this Wednesday, January 26th! The folks at the Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar (968 Queen Street West, at Givins Street, a block west of Shaw, a couple of blocks west of Trinity Bellwoods Park) have invited me to hold a Coffee and Code at their location. I’ll be there from noon to 6 p.m., working away – if you want to talk about Windows Phone 7, Microsoft, the tech industry in general or anything else that comes to mind, that’s where I’ll be, and I’d be more than happy to chat!

    Some quick notes:

    • What is Coffee and Code? It’s me taking advantage of my status as a mobile worker and working in a cafe, where it’s easy to find me and chat, ask questions and let me know what you think. It’s also a lot more fun than having a conversation or meeting in an airless, windowless boardroom.
    • cloud free agent espresso barWhat is Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar? I’m glad that these guys exist – they “get” the spirit of what Coffee and Code is all about. They’re a cafe designed for they call the “untethered class” – those of us whose philosophy is “have laptop, will work anywhere”. Rochelle Latinsky and Tamara Kremer of Cloud AdAgents, the people behind Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar, were kind enough to invite me, and I’m looking forward to visiting and working at a new cafe!
    • What’s going to happen? I’ll be “setting up shop” at Cloud Free Agent Espresso bar, and you should feel to drop by, whether for five minutes or the whole afternoon. I’ll be there to get some work done, but more importantly, to be available to you for conversation, questions and input as well as to buy your cofffee. C’mon down and visit!

    Once again, it’s Wednesday afternoon, from noon to 6 p.m.. I hope to see you there!

    This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


    January 22 Only: Save 50% off “Natural User Interfaces in .NET”

    Surface 2

    We’re at that same point as we were in the mid-80s to early ‘90s, when computer UIs were making the leap from 80 * 24 character interfaces (or perhaps 40 * 24, or if you had a VIC-20, a mere 22 columns) to GUIs and mice. This time, the new UIs are multitouch, and just as Solitaire taught millions how to click and drag, smartphones and touchscreens are now getting users to learn a new vocabulary consisting of touch gestures like tapping, flicking and pinching. As it was back then, today’s touch-driven, “natural” user interfaces aren’t just new territory for the users, but for developers as well.

    Cover of "Natural User Interfaces in .NET"One book worth checking out is the early access edition (it’s a work in progress) of Manning’s Natural User Interfaces in .NET. It’s a primer on creating NUIs and multitouch applications using the WPF and Silverlight multitouch APIs. It introduces the ideas and principles of natural user interfaces and then covers the WPF Touch API and Surface Toolkit as it walks you through the development of a multitouch application, and also learn how these concepts can be applied to Silverlight applications.

    Manning’s got a deal that’s good for today (Saturday, January 22) only: use the discount code dotd0122cc in the promotional code box when you purchase either the ebook or ebook/paper book combo and save half off the price! Since the book is an early access edition, it means you get the current draft in PDF immediately, access to updates, and the final version when the book is complete (plus the paper version if you ordered the ebook/paper book combo). With this discount, the price of the ebook is below $20, a steal when you consider it’s an investment into learning about up-and-coming tech.

    Also worth checking out: a “green paper” titled What is the Natural User Interface? It’s written by Joshua Blake, author of Natural User Interfaces in .NET, defines what NUIs are, how they’re evolving and how they’ll place a role in up-and-coming devices.

    This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


    Unboxing the Samsung Focus from Expansys


    There may come a time when you, as a mobile developer, need to get your hands on phone specifically for development purposes. After all, emulators, while handy, can get you only so far, and there are a good number of reasons that your everyday phone – even though it’s the platform you’re targeting – might not be the right thing to use.

    Expansys Canada logoI needed such a phone, and for mine, I turned to Expansys. If you’ve ever been to one of the major Microsoft conferences such as PDC or TechEd, you might have seen their booth. They’re the guys with all the intriguing-looking hand-held goodies. In my first few weeks at Microsoft (back in 2008), I picked up an unlocked Palm Treo Pro at their booth. They booth staff were very helpful.

    If you need to get your hands on an unlocked mobile device or accessories, I recommend checking out Expansys’ site. They’ve got a broad selection of devices, many of which you can’t get from going to the Canadian telcos. They also have great service; back in December, I screwed up an order (chose a model that wouldn’t work with North American HSPA), but an email was all I needed to get it straightened out – I even got an email from their customer service informing me that the problem had been fixed and that the phone I actually wanted was on its way!

    Samsung Focus

    Samsung Focus phone

    The Samsung Focus, a.k.a. the SGH-i917 or the rather unfortunate-sounding “Cetus” (a name that brings this Simpsons character to mind), is the WP7 device for Rogers subscribers. In the U.S., it’s the WP7 device for AT&T customers.

    Here’s a quick run-down of the Focus’ specs:

    Screen 4” (diagonal) widescreen
    Super AMOLED
    480 * 800 WVGA
    Processor Qualcomm QSD8250 1GHz Scorpion
    Memory 512 MB RAM
    1 GB ROM
    8 GB internal flash memory
    Camera 5-megapixel rear-facing autofocus w/ LED flash
    720p HD video recording
    Input/Sensors Multi-touch (4 points) touchscreen display
    Dual microphone
    3-axis accelerometer
    Digital compass
    Proximity sensor
    Ambient light sensor
    Networks Rogers Wireless / AT&T Mobility
    Wi-Fi b / g/ n
    Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
    FM radio
    Battery 1500mAh Li-on
    Talk: Up to 6.5 hours
    Standby: Up to 300 hours
    Physical dimensions Size: 123 * 65 * 10 mm (4.84” * 2.56” * 0.39”)
    Weight: 115g (4.07 oz)

    Of all the currently available Windows Phone devices, the Focus is the thinnest and lightest.

    The Unboxing

    Expansys sent me an unlocked AT&T-branded Samsung Focus, which emerged from its bubble-wrap envelope in this box:

    Samsung Focus box

    Here’s the box with the top removed, revealing the first layer: a mini-box with a “Welcome to AT&T” message and some quick start guides:

    Samsung Focus box with top removed

    Next layer: the phone itself. The phone is in a little plastic bag and has two static-cling “stickers”, one on the front, one on the back (which I’ll show in a couple photos later on).

    Samsung Focus box revealing phone

    Beneath the phone: another mini-box with the meatier full manuals.

    Samsung Focus box with phone removed, revealing another box

    And finally, the last layer: the ancillary hardware…

    Samsung Focus box's lowest layer, containing accessories

    Here’s the ancillary hardware, all laid out so that it’s easier to see: headphones, AC-to-USB plug, battery and USB cable (the phone uses the standard MicroUSB jack):

    Samsung Focus headphones, AC adapter, battery and USB cable

    Here’s the front of the phone, with its static-cling “sticker” still on. I don’t think the Canadian phones have these “Don’t text and drive” warnings.

    Front of Samsung Focus phone, with "TXTING & DRIVNG...IT CAN WAIT" sticker

    Here’s the static-cling “sticker” on the back of the phone, with the standard warning about adding a MicroSD memory card to the phone to push its storage past the stock 8GB. Unfortunately, Windows Phones are a little fussy about the type of MicroSD cards you insert to it – you should only those whose specs match the phone’s requirements. I haven’t seen much info about what these specs are, so for the time being, I’m holding off on expanding the memory. For the time being, 8GB ought to be enough for…well, maybe not anybody, but it works just fine for me.

    Back of Samsung Focus phone with sticker explaining memory card usage

    This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.