This Monday at TechTalksTO: Edward and Daniel from Shopify Talk Open Data!

Edward and Daniel on Open Data

If you’re into Open Data and in the Toronto area on Monday, you’ll want to catch my fellow Shopifolks Edward Ocampo-Gooding and Daniel Beauchamp at TechTalksTO. They’re going to be talking about how you can (and should) write apps that make use of open data — that’s public information that’s been put online in a form that applications that use, crunch and mash up. It’s out there, it’s free, and it’s there for the public good, so get out there and make the most of it!

Here’s the description of the event:

  • Wondering what your next big project should be?
  • Need some ideas for new and innovative features?

Work on something that matters. You’re bright and hungry to sink your teeth into using new tech all the time. Instead of making yet another X, build something for yourself and for your neighbours & city. Do it with open data: public records now online in an easily hackable form.

Edward and Daniel will talk about how making cool and interesting art & tools backed by open data has catapulted Ottawa hackers into the limelight with coverage & support from the City of Ottawa, CBC, newspapers, local radio and TV stations, and a *lot* of citizens. We’ll show you what’s worked for us, what the scene is like and how you can make open data work for you in your city.

Edward Ocampo-Gooding’s awesome titles include Developer Advocate at Shopify (talk to me about APIs and apps) and lead Organizer at Open Data Ottawa (talk to me about APIs and apps). Daniel Beauchamp is a developer at Shopify and one of the core members of Open Data Ottawa. Along with Edward, he has given several talks on open data, and has recently helped organize a hackfest spanning 76 cities worldwide.

Edward and Daniel’s TechTalk takes place this Monday, May 9th from 6:45 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West, just east of Dufferin). Admission is $3.00 (free for students) and if you want to attend, you need to register here.


“BieberSmash” at Tonight’s Canada’s Technology Triangle .NET User Group Meeting

bieberTonight, I’ll be in Kitchener speaking at the Canada’s Technology Triangle .NET User Group Meeting, where I’ll be talking about game programming on Windows Phone using XNA.

Assisting me – albeit indirectly – will be Justin Bieber, in sprite form. Starting from the humble “File –> New”, I’ll code up some simple 2D gaming fun where we’ll learn about XNA and 2D game development basics and play with pop’s most annoying star in the process!

Some details about the event:

  • Where: Manulife Financial (25 Water St. South, Kitchener)
  • Day: Wednesday September 29th, 2010
  • Time: 6:00pm-8:30pm
  • Note: Please Register for the Event as we order Pizza and Pop based on Registration as of 12pm (Noon) on the day of the Event.

Photo of Justin Bieber courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Jeff “Cooking for Geeks” Potter’s Book Tour

Jeff Potter poses with his book, Cooking for Geeks, at HacklabTO

Last night, I caught Jeff Potter’s presentation in support of his book, Cooking for Geeks, at HacklabTO, a hackerspace in Toronto’s Kensington Market. Like most authors, he’s been touring around, promoting the book, but unlike most authors, he’s avoided the usual venues. Rather than talking at bookstores or pubs, he’s been holding his book gatherings in cosier settings such as living rooms and spaces like the Hacklab.

Cooking for Geeks is written with a specific sort of person in mind: one who likes to know how things work. It’s for the science buff who wants to know more than just how to cook the perfect steak, but why that method works. It’s for the tinkerer who wants to convert ordinary kitchen instruments into really cool cooking devices, either because s/he can’t afford those devices or because s/he’s driven to tinker. It’s about giving people the right mental models to understand the processes that happen when we take ingredients and turn them into dinner.

Jeff opened his presentation with a “What Type of Cook are You?” test borrowed from Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, which help you better understand the way you see food and your approach to cooking. It turns out that I’m a hybrid of Type A (the “comfort food” sort of person) and Type D (the “experimental” sort of person). I’m the sort of person who often – but not always — follows the “Law of the Precious and Rare” at restaurants, ordering the thing I can’t get or make at home, or the dish that I haven’t had in ages.

Jeff’s presentation was eye-opening and even inspirational. Leigh Honeywell, who was also there, was so inspired by the part about sous-vide cooking and how you can put together your own immersion cooker by hacking a slow cooker’s thermostat that she’s sourcing the parts as I write this. Perhaps we’ll have tasty sous-vide steaks at Hacklab next week! Thanks, Jeff!

Cover of "Cooking for Geeks"If you missed last night’s presentation and you’re in Toronto, you’re in luck. Jeff’s doing his presentation today (Tuesday, September 21) in two places, and he’s got books for sale as well. He’ll be at:

Bonus! I bought an extra copy of Cooking for Geeks and had Jeff autograph it. I’m going to give it away in a contest of some sort – I just haven’t decided what sort of contest, Watch this space!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Tonight at HacklabTO: Cooking for Geeks!

Cover of "Cooking for Geeks"

If you’re in or around Toronto’s Kensington Market area tonight, you might want to drop by the Hacklab (170a Baldwin Street, above Graffiti’s) to see O’Reilly author Jeff Potter as his book tour for Cooking for Geeks stops at Toronto’s downtown hackerspace. He’ll be there, talking about his book and possibly treating us to a demo or two, and I’ll be there, helping to host the event. Jeff says he’ll have a number of books on him for sale – but note that it’s first come, first serve, and I’m buying one!

Here’s a video of the author showing you how to make ice cream in 30 seconds (with liquid nitrogen!):

The event starts tonight (Monday, September 20th) at 7:00 p.m. – be there!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Cross-Canada Windows Phone 7 “Coffee and Codes” Start Next Week!

cross-canada coffee and code

The idea behind Coffee and Code is simple: I, along with some of my fellow tech evangelists from Microsoft, take advantage of our status as mobile workers and choose a day to work at a cafe. We announce that we’re doing this and put out a general invitation to come join us – perhaps for a few minutes, a few hours or the entire time – to chat, ask questions, tell us what you think and get to know us. It’s us, working out in the open and making ourselves available to you.

With so few pre-launch Windows Phone 7 devices available, Coffee and Code is your best chance to see one up close and personal and test your apps before they hit the stores. Many developers have already joined us for coffee and a chat, checked out the phone and deployed and optimized their apps to an actual phone as opposed to the emulator. While you can get pretty far with the emulator, it’s no substitute for the real thing.

We’re taking advantage of our TechDays travel to hold Coffee and Codes in TechDays cities on the day after TechDays. Join us! Get to know your friendly Microsoft evangelists, find out about Windows Phone 7 and other parts of the Microsoft platform, and if you have Windows Phone 7 apps that you’d like to test on a real device, this is your chance!

We’ve got Coffee and Codes scheduled for the following dates, cities and locations:

When? City Where?
Thursday, Sept. 16
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Vancouver Take 5 Cafe

429 Granville St (at Hastings)

Thursday, Sept. 23
11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Toronto Starbucks
4 King Street West
Thursday, Sept. 30
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Toronto Starbucks
4 King Street West
Thursday, Oct. 7
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Edmonton Second Cup

10209 Jasper Ave NW

Friday, Oct. 29
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Toronto Starbucks
4 King Street West
Thursday, Nov. 4
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Halifax Second Cup
5425 Spring Garden Road
Thursday, Nov. 11
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Ottawa Second Cup
World Exchange Plaza
111 Albert
Thursday, Nov. 25
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Montreal Second Cup
2020 Rue University

…and yes, we’re confirming venues for December in Winnipeg and Calgary.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Windows Phone 7 Blogger Night in Toronto

Last night, we held a night to showcase some cool Windows Phone 7 apps being written by developers in and around the Toronto area. We invited some local tech and mobile industry bloggers and developers to see these apps in action and try out a late beta version of Windows Phone 7 on the hard-to-come-by advance devices and check out the look and feel of our new mobile operating system on some actual mobile hardware.

00aKing Street East, looking west from George Street (just east of Jarvis).

Rather than hold it in some bland “multi-purpose room” at the office, we chose to hold the event at Kultura, a nice little tapas restaurant on King Street, a short walk east of Toronto’s financial district, yet worlds away at the same time.

00bThe front room of Kultura’s second floor.

We held the event in the back room of Kultura’s second floor, a lounge area with enough space to do a big presentation followed by a number of small hands-on sessions with the apps:

00cThe back room of Kultura’s second floor.

Practice Run

Sure, seeing Steve Ballmer run around shouting “Developers, developers, developers, developers” is funny, but it’s also the truth. We’re a software platform company, and we know that a software platform ain’t nuthin’ without developers building apps for it. Windows Phone 7 is our newest software platform (coming soon!) and we want developers to build for it, so we decided to inspire people by showcasing local developers building apps for our phone and making them rock stars.

A well-run show requires a practice run. We asked the developers to come early and do a practice run through their presentations, and while they did that, I snapped some photos:

01Alexey Adamsky shows off his 3-D Sudoku app while Barranger Ridler waits his turn.
This looks like an album cover.

02Barranger Ridler demonstrates his “Where’s Timmy?” app,
which guides you to the Tim Hortons locations closest to you.

03Shawn Konopinksy shows us his social music app, “Songbuzz”.

04Mark Arteaga shows us his open data app, VanGuide.

05Mike Kasprzak demos his match-the-objects-to-eliminate-them game, “Smiles”.

The Real Thing

With the practice run done, I had a little time to grab a drink and chat with some of the guests as they arrived:

06Steve Syfuhs, Todd Lamothe and Colin Melia.

And soon after, it was time to start the presentations. I did the “opening monologue”, a quick three-minute overview of Windows Phone and what it means to both users and developers:

07“…and the Twitter hashtag for this event is #WP7dev…”

08“It’s like having an Xbox in your pocket.”

09“I’m never without my Windows Phone and my Microsoft Office ironic hipster trucker cap.”

10“Ever since Alexander Graham Bell, Canadian techies have always punched above their weight class.”

The audience sat in rapt attention, bedazzled by my scintillating oratory:

11Must…hang onto…every word…

And then came the developers, showing off their Windows Phone 7 wares running on the emulator, which made it easy to show apps on the phone to an audience.

First up was Alexey Adamsky, who with Alex Yakobovich, built Sudoku 3D, which literally adds an extra dimension to the popular puzzle game.:

12[3]Alexey Adamsky and Sudoku 3D.

Alexey and Alex work out of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone, an incubator where Ryerson students and alumni with a technical bent and entrepreneurial ambition can work on their projects, start companies and take their ideas to market. Sudoku 3D started off life as a game for the Xbox 360 written using the XNA framework, but when they heard that Windows Phone 7 was going to be XNA-powered, they knew their project could be turned into a mobile game.

13Sudoku 3D, running as both a phone app (in the WP7 emulator) and a Windows application.

XNA lets Alexey and Alex target Windows, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7. Alexey says that most of the code is the same across all three platforms and that porting Sudoku 3D from the original Xbox version to the phone was very easy.

After Alexey finished, it was Barranger’s turn:

14Alexey Adamsky, Barranger Ridler and Shawn Konopinsky.

Barranger Ridler is an indie developer who’s done some work for utility companies, and this work sometimes took him to small towns. One of the questions he often asked when arriving in a small town was “Where’s the nearest Tim Hortons?” His app, “Where’s Timmy?”, answers that question:

15Barranger Ridler demos Where’s Timmy?

Luckily for Barranger, Tim Hortons publishes their store location data as a static file saved in a number of formats. He took this data and put it into a database on a server that Where’s Timmy? can access. Where’s Timmy? uses this data, the user’s location (determined via the phone’s GPS) and Bing Maps to tell the user where the nearest ten Tim Hortons branches are and even provide step-by-step directions:

16Where’s Timmy? shows us the way to the nearest Tim Hortons.

Next up was long-time Windows Mobile developer and MVP Mark Arteaga, who showed us a couple of his apps, including VanGuide. Mark is one of my “go-to guys” for Windows Phone, and he’ll be sharing his knowledge in two Windows Phone sessions at the TechDays conference, which will take place in eight cities across Canada.

17Mark Arteaga shows the crowd his apps.

After Mark came Shawn Konopinsky of Nascent Digital, a Toronto-based company specializing in building applications based on touch technologies:

18Shawn Konopinsky and Songbuzz.

Shawn demoed Songbuzz, a social music app that allows users to share what they’re listening to, find out what their friends are listening to and discover new music:

19Songbuzz, close up.

20The audience, still captivated.

Closing the demos was Mike Kasprzak, creator of the puzzle game Smiles:

21Mike Kasprzak shows us Smiles.

22The Jedi Mind Trick doesn’t work on games.

It’s a really cute game with gorgeous graphics and great animations featuring several modes, from a full-on arcade mode to a more relaxed “zen mode”:

23A close-up of Smiles in action.

The Party

24Everyone to the bar!

With the demos done, it was time for mingling and socializing. The audience could talk to the developers and get personal demos of their Windows Phone apps, grab a drink and some tapas, and work the room.

25Everyone to the bar….again!

I got to chat with a number of guests, including Valerie Fox, Director of Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, Emil Protalinski, who write for Ars Technica’s column One Microsoft Way and Nitin Bharti of DZone.

26Mandatory arty shot.

I had my hands full chatting up guests, doing video interviews and answering technical (and some non-technical) questions, so I’m glad that my fellow evangelist Ruth Morton took most of these pictures. Also present was another evangelist on my team, Barnaby Jeans, who held court at a banquette as people came to him to find out more about Windows Azure:

27Barnaby Jeans and Michelle Michalak.

31Barnaby Jeans and Todd Lamothe.

It was a full and lively room…

28Everybody to the tapas!

…with some of the brightest lights in our local tech scene…

29Sandy Kemsley, Leigh Honeywell and Valerie Fox.

…and these guys, too! (I kid because I love, gentlemen!)

30Colin Melia, Steve Syfuhs, Jean-Rene Roy, Mark Arteaga and a guy I can’t identify.

I’d like to thank:

  • The developers: Alex Yakobovich, Alexey Adamsky, Barranger Ridler, Mark Arteaga, Mike Kasprzak and Shawn Konopinsky, for building those apps and showing them off so well.
  • Our PR company, High Road Communications, and especially Chantelle Bernard and Allison Colalillo for organizing the event. I always say: if you’re ever invited to an event held by High Road, you must RSVP “yes”.
  • Ruth Morton for helping me out by taking pictures and directing me to people who wanted to ask me questions or look at my Windows Phone.
  • The people at Kultura, who were gracious hosts and made great food and drinks!

This is Only the Beginning

For the developers who showcased their apps, this is only the beginning. They’re going to continue polishing them, and soon the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace is open up and they’ll submit them for approval. For them, the next few weeks look something like this:

  1. Register at the marketplace today.

  2. Finish their application or game using the Beta tools.

  3. Download the final Windows Phone Developer Tools when they are released on September 16th.

  4. Recompile their app or game using the final tools.

  5. Have their XAP ready for ingestion into the marketplace in early October when it opens.

For the Developer and Platform Evangelism Team at Microsoft Canada, this is only the beginning. We’ve got a cross-Canada conference starting next week, and Windows Phone 7 is going to be one of the big topics. It offers the most bang for the tech conference buck; if you haven’t registered for it yet, do it now!

We’re also looking for more Windows Phone 7 developers and their apps, and we want to showcase them! Do you have a Windows Phone 7 app that you’re working on? Drop me a line and tell me about it!

download wp7 dev tools

For you, this can be the beginning. The mobile platform is still new ground, and Windows Phone 7 is a great mobile platform for both developers and users. Download the developer tools today, check out some tutorials and make your mark!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Don’t Forget About FailCamp Toronto 3 – Tuesday, Sept. 29!


FailCamp Toronto 3 is 10 days away! Come join us in our “celebration of fail”. We’ll share stories about the times when things went pear-shaped, got SNAFUed, or just plain failed — and just as important, the lessons we learned from them. And unlike many failures, FailCamp’s admission is free.

For more details about FailCamp, see the FailCamp registration page or this earlier article.