May 2011

I started my blog back in December 2010 and it's still going strong. I've posted at least once post a month since then, so feel free to browse through the archives.

Build your own Astrolight app

Astrolight is a simple red flashlight application which you can get in the Windows Phone Marketplace, it’s so simple that I’m going to tell you how you can create one too. With two lines of code.

Assuming you’re all up and running with the free Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone, we just need to start a new Windows Phone Game project…

Then we double click the Game1.cs file and find the Draw method. Here we need to change replace one line with two:

/// <summary>
/// This is called when the game should draw itself.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="gameTime">Provides a snapshot of timing values.</param>
protected override void Draw(GameTime gameTime)
{
    graphics.IsFullScreen = true;
    graphics.GraphicsDevice.Clear(Color.Red);

    base.Draw(gameTime);
}

Press play and watch your brand new app on the Windows Phone Emulator!

TouchStudio for Windows Phone 7

Microsoft Research has created a fancy project for Windows Phone 7 called TouchStudio – a scripting environment which allows you to write code on your phone with just your fingertips.

I’ve been playing with TouchStudio for a couple of weeks now, and I can definitely say it brings the fun of messing around with a programming language to the phone. But don’t expect to be creating any higher level applications just yet.

The language itself seems to be still in flux right now, including breaking changes in the V1.1 release. But it is a very modern and good looking language, without extra semicolons or curly braces that would be included if you were porting a language like C# over to the phone.

Check Channel 9 for some cool videos, or if you don’t have a Windows Phone you can check out a related project from Microsoft called Small Basic. While the language is totally different to the one in TouchStudio, it does seem to have similar goals for the end user.

Update…

TouchStudio 1.2 has been released. This includes new features such as posting to Facebook!

Office Life Timelapse

I created another cool time-lapse video last week, and I think this one came out pretty well. As you can see, it’s not of the sky this time. Instead we get to see the busy life of the Branded3 offices in Aberford. Oh and the awesome music is supplied by Mike Jeffs. Good job.

My other time lapse videos:

Five Favourite Visual Studio 2010 Extensions

Productivity Power Tools

Probably the best code focused extension for Visual Studio 2010 is the amazing Productivity Power Tools. It includes such gems as the Solution Navigator which lets you navigate to classes and members, search for references, and filter your solution to show only checked out files.

NuGet Package Manager

NuGet is an awesome open source package manager for the .NET platform, which includes a very large amount of third party libraries ready to use in a couple of clicks. Or, if you fancy, by using a PowerShell console. They totally get extra points for the PowerShell integration…

F# Outlining

The name pretty much describes what it does. Visual Studio 2010 was a pretty massive release for Microsoft, including F# for the first time. This is why I totally forgive them for not implementing outlining support for this fledgling language. Fortunately someone else did their job for them.

Spell Checker

Everyone wants to have properly spelt comments, especially when you’re using the XML comment features in the .NET languages to produce documentation for your customers. While this plugin is pretty simple, it works a treat and even supports custom dictionaries.

Python Tools for Visual Studio

Not just an extension, but a whole bunch of Python related win for Visual Studio. This latest version works with both CPython and IronPython which really increases the scope for these tools.

Don’t forget to couple these guys with the Microsoft Web Platform Installer for great justice.

APPA Mundi – Too much nerd, not enough smarts?

APPA Mundi are a British company who employ some very talented staff, most of whom are very well known in developer circles via books, videos and other means.

However, they just don’t get how to engage their customers. Something is very wrong, but what is it?

Unhappy customers are unhappy

APPA Mundi Tasks is a fairly decent application for tracking Exchange tasks and syncing them over the air. I’ve paid for this app and to be honest it could be better but it’s not bad – but I’m not here to moan about the features of the app itself.

The problem is that people seem to have issues when APPA Mundi decide to release an update. For whatever reason, the application crashes at start-up when loading in the settings from the previous version. This isn’t even the first time it has happened, and the only way to get around this issue is to uninstall – wiping any un-synchronised tasks – and re-install a fresh copy. Then you then have to set up with your Exchange details… which you always keep on you, right?

I’m not the only one who has this issue, a quick check of the reviews on the Marketplace shows a lot of people with similar issues:

“New update crash”DAguia
“This program is no longer working, need tech support”Player304316965
“No longer works after upgrade, please repair”tag63
“This is crashing everytime after the recent upgrade!!! Please fix ASAP!!!!!!!!!”CRLNAZ

These people paid for this application.

It’s not our fault, honest

So APPA Mundi have suggested a fix for this issue (the same one I described above) – but that’s not all, when I questioned them on why they hadn’t tested their update properly they informed me that it wasn’t their falt, and Microsoft was to blame

[blackbirdpie id="69167128867127297"]

What? This is news to me. There’s a MAJOR bug in Microsoft’s update process, and no-one else knows about it apart from the smarty-pants over at APPA Mundi? Hey it’s possible…

Don’t be on Twitter if you’re not going to use it

Not your fault? Prove it!

[blackbirdpie id="69460456946929664"]

I’ve not heard anything from them since, and as you can tell, these guys don’t update their Twitter account very often. I guess you either get social media or you don’t, but why even bother to have a Twitter account if you don’t check your replies? Does no one at APPA Mundi care about their company image?

APPA Mundi have some extremely intelligent employees – I even own their books. Why can’t they get something as simple as app updates sorted?

I was very dismayed to find this quote on their website:

“The level of Windows Mobile development expertise at APPA Mundi is virtually unrivaled anywhere in the world.”Rob Tiffany, Mobility Architect, Microsoft

Oh god. We’re doomed.

Update…

Check the comments below for a reply from APPA Mundi.

Does Green Tea Give Me Migraines?

In the past I’ve had really bad headaches from what seems to be behind my right eye. For a while I thought it may have something to do with my glasses having the wrong prescription, but a recent visit to the opticians said there was nothing wrong with my right eye, and that the prescription hadn’t changed much. So even after the new glasses I’d keep getting these headaches – until, at some point, it stopped.

Fast forward a good number of weeks to now – and I’ve been feeling quite healthy. None of this headache business at all. That is, until today…

What did I have back then, and today – which I’d not had for a while?

Gunpowder green tea.

A quick Bing around shows us that there are other people saying similar things, but the thought had never crossed my mind before. I’ll have to lay off it again and see what happens.

Strangely, it didn’t seem to happen when I drank green tea from a bag, so maybe it’s the uber-detoxifying powers of Gunpowder that causes this to happen.

Also, on an interesting note, I’d never realised that my headaches are actually ‘textbook‘ migraines with aura. Cool.

This is just my experience though, and I’m sure I’ll follow up with more information, but I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has had these symptoms.