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  • Sevensteps and I are joining forces

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    As of today, I will be partnering with Sevensteps when it comes to developing great Surface, Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7 Touch applications. Below you’ll find the press release we sent out today. I am looking forward to this partnership and expect great things coming from us both in the future!   Dennis Vroegop, Microsoft MVP, joins Sevensteps partner network 1 March 2011, Seattle / Amersfoort Today Dennis Vroegop and Bart Roozendaal, both Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for Microsoft Surface, announce the joining of Dennis Vroegop to the Sevensteps partner network. Dennis and Bart already worked together very closely through the Microsoft MVP connection, but decided to combined their efforts to make the new Microsoft Surface and our solutions for it, a success. Dennis will join the other Sevensteps partners in creating state of the art solutions for Microsoft Surface, Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7 Touch. Dennis brings a vast amount of knowledge about these technologies, as well as his network in the Dutch developer community. With Dennis joining the Sevensteps partner network we bring unique expertise, power and insight in the platforms, that no other company worldwide can offer. This step brings our goal of Sevensteps being the knowledge hub for Microsoft Surface of choice a whole lot closer. About Dennis Vroegop Dennis is a Microsoft MVP for Microsoft Surface and chairman of the Dutch dotNed user group. He has a long history promoting Microsoft Surface in the developer community. Dennis is a regular speaker at local and international conferences and a frequent writer of articles, including but not limited to Microsoft Surface. Dennis has a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences and has spent all of his professional life writing software for the Microsoft platform. About Sevensteps For more information about Sevensteps and Bart Roozendaal please point to http://www.sevensteps.com Tags: surface,wp7,windows touch

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  • Python: Dennis Nedry - Security

    - by Peter Nielsen
    Has anyone seen Jurrassic Park where Dennis Nedry has protected the system with an animation that says 'You didn't say the magic word' where after the system goes down. Is it possible to do something similar ikn Python ? To describe it less humoristic: A response screen which waits for a condition fulfilled by the user. And encrypts and locks the system after a certain time. Is that possible on a linux system by the use of Python ?

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  • Can't get Minecraft to run on Ubuntu

    - by Dennis
    I have installed JDK and JRE from this tutorial and have tried many methods of starting it up, yet my results are always the same. If any one could please help me I would be very grateful. Exception in thread "Thread-3" java.lang.UnsatisfiedLinkError: /home/dennis/.minecraft/bin/natives/liblwjgl.so: /home/dennis/.minecraft/bin/natives/liblwjgl.so: wrong ELF class: ELFCLASS32 (Possible cause: architecture word width mismatch) at java.lang.ClassLoader$NativeLibrary.load(Native Method) at java.lang.ClassLoader.loadLibrary1(Unknown Source) at java.lang.ClassLoader.loadLibrary0(Unknown Source) at java.lang.ClassLoader.loadLibrary(Unknown Source) at java.lang.Runtime.load0(Unknown Source) at java.lang.System.load(Unknown Source) at org.lwjgl.Sys$1.run(Sys.java:69) at java.security.AccessController.doPrivileged(Native Method) at org.lwjgl.Sys.doLoadLibrary(Sys.java:65) at org.lwjgl.Sys.loadLibrary(Sys.java:81) at org.lwjgl.Sys.<clinit>(Sys.java:98) at net.minecraft.client.Minecraft.F(SourceFile:1853) at aoe.<init>(SourceFile:20) at net.minecraft.client.Minecraft.<init>(SourceFile:77) at anv.<init>(SourceFile:36) at net.minecraft.client.MinecraftApplet.init(SourceFile:36) at net.minecraft.Launcher.replace(Launcher.java:136) at net.minecraft.Launcher$1.run(Launcher.java:79)

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  • EVOLUTION: No such Calendar

    - by Dennis
    I am using a google calendar with evolution for quite a while now. I was never having any troubles. Just recently, I suppose just after an update, whenever I want to create a new event in evolution (for the just mentioned google calendar) I get the err message "No such calendar". When I dismiss changes an re-open evolution the entry has been added anyway. This is somewhat annoying. I googled, but haven't found anything yet which suggests that it not problem many people have!? Looking for help, maybe someone here knows an answer! I appreciate any suggestion! Cheers, Dennis

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  • Dream.In.Code Podcast 15 with Michael Crump

    - by mbcrump
    I was recently interviewed by Dennis Delimarsky for his podcast titled “Dream.In.Code”. We talked for about an hour on all things Silverlight and Windows Phone 7. Dennis asked a lot of great questions and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with him. Check out the interview and let me know what you think. Listen to the podcast. Dream.In.Code Website Thanks again to Dream In Code for this opportunity.  Subscribe to my feed

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  • Surface development: it&rsquo;s just like software development

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    Surface is magic. Everyone using it seems to think that way. And I have to be honest, after working for almost 2 years with the platform I still get that special feeling the moment I turn on the unit to do some more work. The whole user experience, the rich environment of the SDK, the touch, even the look and feel of the Surface environment is so much different from the stuff I’ve been working on all my career that I am still bewildered by it. But… and this is a big but.. in the end we’re still talking about a computer and that needs software to become useful. Deep down the magic of the Surface unit there is a PC somewhere, running Windows Vista and the .net framework 3.5. When you write that magic software that makes the platform come alive you’re still working with .net, WPF/XNA, C#, VB.Net and all those other tools and technologies you know so well. Sure, the whole user experience is different from what you’ve known. And the way of thinking about users, their interaction and the positioning of screen elements requires a whole new paradigm. And that takes time. It took me about half a year before I had the feeling I got it nailed down. But when that moment came (about 18 months ago…) I realized that everything I had learned so far on software development still is true when it comes to Surface. The last 6 months I have been working with some people with a different background to start a new company. The idea was that the new company would be focussing on Surface and Surface only. These people come from a marketing background and had some good ideas for some applications. And I have to admit: their ideas were good. Very good. Where it all fell down of course is that these ideas need to be implemented in a piece of software. And creating great software takes skilled developers and a lot of time and money. That’s where things went wrong: the marketing guys didn’t realize and didn’t want to realize that software development is a job that takes skill. You can’t just hire a bunch of developers and expect them to deliver the best sort of software, especially not when it comes to Surface. I tried to explain that yes, their User Interface in Photoshop looked great, but no: I couldn’t develop an application like that in a weeks time. Even worse: the while backend of the software (WCF for communications, SQL Server for the database, etc) would take a lot more time than the frontend. They didn’t understand. It took them a couple of days to drawn the UI in Photoshop so in Blend I should be able to build the software in about the same amount of time. Well, you and I know that it doesn’t work that way. Software is hard to write, and even harder to write well, and it takes skill and dedication. It’s not something you can do as fast as you can draw a mock up for a Surface application in Photohop. The same holds true for web applications of course. A lot of designers there fail to appreciate the hard work that goes into writing the plumbing for a good web app that can handle thousands of users. Although the UI is very important, it’s not all there is to it. And in Surface development this is the same. The UI should create the feeling of magic, but the software behind it is what makes it come alive. And that takes time. A lot of time. So brush of you skills and don’t throw them away if you start developing for Surface. Because projects (and colaborations) can fail there as hard as they can in any other area of software development. On a side note: we decided to stop the colaboration (something the other parties involved didn’t appreciate and were very angry about) and decided to hire a designer for the Surface projects. The focus is back where it belongs: on the software development we know so well and have been doing very well for 13 years. UI is just a part of the whole project and not the end product. So my company Detrio is still going strong when it comes to develivering Surface solutions but once again from a technological background, not a marketing background.

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  • Windows Phone appointment task

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/dvroegop/archive/2014/08/10/windows-phone-appointment-task.aspxI am currently working on a new version of my AgeInDays app for Windows Phone. This app calculates how old you are in days (or weeks, depending on your preferences). The inspiration for this app came from my father, who once told me he proposed to my mother when she was 1000 weeks old. That left me wondering: how old in weeks or days am I? And being the geek I am, I wrote an app for it. If you have a Windows Phone, you can find it at http://www.windowsphone.com/en-in/store/app/age-in-days/7ed03603-0e00-4214-ad04-ce56773e5dab A new version of the app was published quite quickly, adding the possibility to mark a date in your agenda when you would have reached a certain age. Of course the logic behind this if extremely simple. Just take a DateTime, populate it with the given date from the DatePicker, then call AddDays(numDays) and voila, you have the date. Now all I had to do was implement a way to store this in the users calendar so he would get a reminder when that date occurred. Luckily, the Windows Phone SDK makes that extremely simple: public void PublishTask(DateTime occuranceDate, string message) { var task = new SaveAppointmentTask() { StartTime = occuranceDate, EndTime = occuranceDate, Subject = message, Location = string.Empty, IsAllDayEvent = true, Reminder = Reminder.None, AppointmentStatus = AppointmentStatus.Free };   task.Show(); }  And that's it. Whenever I call the PublishTask Method an appointment will be made and put in the calendar. Well, not exactly: a template will be made for that appointment and the user will see that template, giving him the option to either discard or save the reminder. The user can also make changes before submitting this to the calendar: it would be useful to be able to change the text in the agenda and that's exactly what this allows you to do. Now, see at the bottom of the screen the option "Occurs". This tiny field is what this post is about. You cannot set it from the code. I want to be able to have repeating items in my agenda. Say for instance you're counting down to a certain date, I want to be able to give you that option as well. However, I cannot. The field "occurs" is not part of the Task you create in code. Of course, you could create a whole series of events yourself. Have the "Occurs" field in your own user interface and make all the appointments. But that's not the same. First, the system doesn't recognize them as part of a series. That means if you want to change the text later on on one of the occurrences it will not ask you if you want to open this one or the whole series. More important however, is that the user has to acknowledge each and every single occurrence and save that into the agenda. Now, I understand why they implemented the system in such a way that the user has to approve an entry. You don't want apps to automatically fill your agenda with messages such as "Remember to pay for my app!". But why not include the "Occurs" option? The user can still opt out if they see this happening. I hope an update will fix this soon. But for now: you just have to countdown to your birthday yourself. My app won't support this.

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  • Designing for the future

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    User interfaces and user experience design is a fast moving field. It’s something that changes pretty quick: what feels fresh today will look outdated tomorrow. I remember the day I first got a beta version of Windows 95 and I felt swept away by the user interface of the OS. It felt so modern! If I look back now, it feels old. Well, it should: the design is 17 years old which is an eternity in our field. Of course, this is not limited to UI. Same goes for many industries. I want you to think back of the cars that amazed you when you were in your teens (if you are in your teens then this may not apply to you). Didn’t they feel like part of the future? Didn’t you think that this was the ultimate in designs? And aren’t those designs hopelessly outdated today (again, depending on your age, it may just be me)? Let’s review the Win95 design: And let’s compare that to Windows 7: There are so many differences here, I wouldn’t even know where to start explaining them. The general feeling however is one of more usability: studies have shown Windows 7 is much easier to understand for new users than the older versions of Windows did. Of course, experienced Windows users didn’t like it: people are usually afraid of changes and like to stick to what they know. But for new users this was a huge improvement. And that is what UX design is all about: make a product easier to use, with less training required and make users feel more productive. Still, there are areas where this doesn’t hold up. There are plenty examples of designs from the past that are still fresh today. But if you look closely at them, you’ll notice some subtle differences. This differences are what keep the designs fresh. A good example is the signs you’ll find on the road. They haven’t changed much over the years (otherwise people wouldn’t recognize them anymore) but they have been changing gradually to reflect changes in traffic. The same goes for computer interfaces. With each new product or version of a product, the UI and UX is changed gradually. Every now and then however, a bigger change is needed. Just think about the introduction of the Ribbon in Microsoft Office 2007: the whole UI was redesigned. A lot of old users (not in age, but in times of using older versions) didn’t like it a bit, but new users or casual users seem to be more efficient using the product. Which, of course, is exactly the reason behind the changes. I believe that a big engine behind the changes in User Experience design has been the web. In the old days (i.e. before the explosion of the internet) user interface design in Windows applications was limited to choosing the margins between your battleship gray buttons. When the web came along, and especially the web 2.0 where the browsers started to act more and more as application platforms, designers stepped in and made a huge impact. In the browser, they could do whatever they wanted. In the beginning this was limited to the darn blink tag but gradually people really started to think about UX. Even more so: the design of the UI and the whole experience was taken away from the developers and put into the hands of people who knew what they were doing: UX designers. This caused some problems. Everyone who has done a web project in the early 2000’s must have had the same experience: the designers give you a set of Photoshop files and tell you to translate it to HTML. Which, of course, is very hard to do. However, with new tooling and new standards this became much easier. The latest version of HTML and CSS has taken the responsibility for the design away from the developers and placed them in the capable hands of the designers. And that’s where that responsibility belongs, after all, I don’t want a designer to muck around in my c# code just as much as he or she doesn’t want me to poke in the sites style definitions. This change in responsibilities resulted in good looking but more important: better thought out user interfaces in websites. And when websites became more and more interactive, people started to expect the same sort of look and feel from their desktop applications. But that didn’t really happen. Most business applications still have that battleship gray look and feel. Ok, they may use a different color but we’re not talking colors here but usability. Now, you may not be able to read the Dutch captions, but even if you did you wouldn’t understand what was going on. At least, not when you first see it. You have to scan the screen, read all the labels, see how they are related to the other elements on the screen and then figure out what they do. If you’re an experienced user of this application however, this might be a good thing: you know what to do and you get all the information you need in one single screen. But for most applications this isn’t the case. A lot of people only use their computer for a limited time a day (a weird concept for me, but it happens) and need it to get something done and then get on with their lives. For them, a user interface experience like the above isn’t working. (disclaimer: I just picked a screenshot, I am not saying this is bad software but it is an example of about 95% of the Windows applications out there). For the knowledge worker, this isn’t a problem. They use one or two systems and they know exactly what they need to do to achieve their goal. They don’t want any clutter on their screen that distracts them from their task, they just want to be as efficient as possible. When they know the systems they are very productive. The point is, how long does it take to become productive? And: could they be even more productive if the UX was better? Are there things missing that they don’t know about? Are there better ways to achieve what they want to achieve? Also: could a system be designed in such a way that it is not only much more easy to work with but also less tiring? in the example above you need to switch between the keyboard and mouse a lot, something that we now know can be very tiring. The goal of most applications (being client apps or websites on any kind of device) is to provide information. Information is data that when given to the right people, on the right time, in the right place and when it is correct adds value for that person (please, remember that definition: I still hear the statement “the information was wrong” which doesn’t make sense: data can be wrong, information cannot be). So if a system provides data, how can we make sure the chances of becoming information is as high as possible? A good example of a well thought-out system that attempts this is the Zune client. It is a very good application, and I think the UX is much better than it’s main competitor iTunes. Have a look at both: On the left you see the iTunes screenshot, on the right the Zune. As you notice, the Zune screen has more images but less chrome (chrome being visuals not part of the data you want to show, i.e. edges around buttons). The whole thing is text oriented or image oriented, where that text or image is part of the information you need. What is important is big, what’s less important is smaller. Yet, everything you need to know at that point is present and your attention is drawn immediately to what you’re trying to achieve: information about music. You can easily switch between the content on your machine and content on your Zune player but clicking on the image of the player. But if you didn’t know that, you’d find out soon enough: the whole UX is designed in such a way that it invites you to play around. So sooner or later (probably sooner) you’d click on that image and you would see what it does. In the iTunes version it’s harder to find: the discoverability is a lot lower. For inexperienced people the Zune player feels much more natural than the iTunes player, and they get up to speed a lot faster. How does this all work? Why is this UX better? The answer lies in a project from Microsoft with the codename (it seems to be becoming the official name though) “Metro”. Metro is a design language, based on certain principles. When they thought about UX they took a good long look around them and went out in search of metaphors. And they found them. The team noticed that signage in streets, airports, roads, buildings and so on are usually very clear and very precise. These signs give you the information you need and nothing more. It’s simple, clearly understood and fast to understand. A good example are airport signs. Airports can be intimidating places, especially for the non-experienced traveler. In the early 1990’s Amsterdam Airport Schiphol decided to redesign all the signage to make the traveller feel less disoriented. They developed a set of guidelines for signs and implemented those. Soon, most airports around the world adopted these ideas and you see variations of the Dutch signs everywhere on the globe. The signs are text-oriented. Yes, there are icons explaining what it all means for the people who can’t read or don’t understand the language, but the basic sign language is text. It’s clear, it’s high-contrast and it’s easy to understand. One look at the sign and you know where to go. The only thing I don’t like is the green sign pointing to the emergency exit, but since this is the default style for emergency exits I understand why they did this. If you look at the Zune UI again, you’ll notice the similarities. Text oriented, little or no icons, clear usage of fonts and all the information you need. This design language has a set of principles: Clean, light, open and fast Content, not chrome Soulful and alive These are just a couple of the principles, you can read the whole philosophy behind Metro for Windows Phone 7 here. These ideas seem to work. I love my Windows Phone 7. It’s easy to use, it’s clear, there’s no clutter that I do not need. It works for me. And I noticed it works for a lot of other people as well, especially people who aren’t as proficient with computers as I am. You see these ideas in a lot other places. Corning, a manufacturer of glass, has made a video of possible usages of their products. It’s their glimpse into the future. You’ll notice that a lot of the UI in the screens look a lot like what Microsoft is doing with Metro (not coincidentally Corning is the supplier for the Gorilla glass display surface on the new SUR40 device (or Surface v2.0 as a lot of people call it)). The idea behind this vision is that data should be available everywhere where you it. Systems should be available at all times and data is presented in a clear and light manner so that you can turn that data into information. You don’t need a lot of fancy animations that only distract from the data. You want the data and you want it fast. Have a look at this truly inspiring video that made: This is what I believe the future will look like. Of course, not everything is possible, or even desirable. But it is a nice way to think about the future . I feel very strongly about designing applications in such a way that they add value to the user. Designing applications that turn data into information. Applications that make the user feel happy to use them. So… when are you going to drop the battleship-gray designs? Tags van Technorati: surface,design,windows phone 7,wp7,metro

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  • Dutch for once: op zoek naar een nieuwe uitdaging!

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/dvroegop/archive/2013/10/11/dutch-for-once-op-zoek-naar-een-nieuwe-uitdaging.aspxI apologize to my non-dutch speaking readers: this post is about me looking for a new job and since I am based in the Netherlands I will do this in Dutch… Next time I will be technical (and thus in English) again! Het leuke van interim zijn is dat een klus een keer afloopt. Ik heb heel bewust gekozen voor het leven als freelancer: ik wil graag heel veel verschillende mensen en organisaties leren kennen. Dit werk is daar bij uitstek geschikt voor! Immers: bij iedere klus breng ik niet alleen nieuwe ideeën en kennis maar ik leer zelf ook iedere keer ontzettend veel. Die kennis kan ik dan weer gebruiken bij een vervolgklus en op die manier verspreid ik die kennis onder de bedrijven in Nederland. En er is niets leukers dan zien dat wat ik meebreng een organisatie naar een ander niveau brengt! Iedere keer een ander bedrijf zoeken houdt in dat ik iedere keer weg moet gaan bij een organisatie. Het lastige daarvan is het juiste moment te vinden. Van buitenaf gezien is dat lastig in te schatten: wanneer kan ik niets vernieuwends meer bijdragen en is het tijd om verder te gaan? Wanneer is het tijd om te zeggen dat de organisatie alles weet wat ik ze kan bijbrengen? In mijn huidige klus is dat moment nu aangebroken. In de afgelopen elf maanden heb ik dit bedrijf zien veranderen van een kleine maar enthousiaste groep ontwikkelaars naar een professionele organisatie met ruim twee keer zo veel ontwikkelaars. Dat veranderingsproces is erg leerzaam geweest en ik ben dan ook erg blij dat ik die verandering heb kunnen en mogen begeleiden. Van drie teams met ieder vijf of zes ontwikkelaars naar zes teams met zeven tot acht ontwikkelaars per team groeien betekent dat je je ontwikkelproces heel anders moet insteken. Ook houdt dat in dat je je teams anders moet indelen, dat de organisatie zelf anders gemodelleerd moet worden en dat mensen anders met elkaar om moeten gaan. Om dat voor elkaar te krijgen is er door iedereen heel hard gewerkt, is er een aantal fouten gemaakt, is heel veel van die fouten geleerd en is uiteindelijk een vrijwel nieuw bedrijf ontstaan. Het is tijd om dit bedrijf te verlaten. Ik ben benieuwd waar ik hierna terecht kom: ik ben aan het rondkijken naar mogelijkheden. Ik weet wèl: het bedrijf waar ik naar op zoek ben, is een bedrijf dat openstaat voor veranderingen. Veranderingen, maar dan wel met het oog voor het individu; mensen staan immers centraal in de software ontwikkeling! Ik heb er in ieder geval weer zin in!

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  • Surface V2.0

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    It’s been quiet around here. And the reason for that is that it’s been quiet around Surface for a while. Now, a lot of people assume that when a product team isn’t making too much noise that must mean they stopped working on their product. Remember the PDC keynote in 2010? Just because they didn’t mention WPF there a lot of people had the idea that WPF was dead and abandoned for Silverlight. Of course, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The same applies to Surface. While we didn’t hear much from the team in Redmond they were busy putting together the next version of the platform. And at the CES in January the world saw what they have been up to all along: Surface V2.0 as it’s commonly known. Of course, the product is still in development. It’s not here yet, we can’t buy one yet. However, more and more information comes available and I think this is a good time to share with you what it’s all about! The biggest change from an organizational point of view is that Microsoft decided to stop producing the hardware themselves. Instead, they have formed a partnership with Samsung who will manufacture the devices. This means that you as a buyer get the benefits of a large, worldwide supplier with all the services they can offer. Not that Microsoft didn’t do that before but since Surface wasn’t a ‘big’ product it was sometimes hard to get to the right people. The new device is officially called the “Samsung SUR 40 for Microsoft Surface” which is quite a mouthful. The software that runs the device is of course still coming from Microsoft. Let’s dive into the technical specs (note: all of this is preliminary, it’s still in the Alpha phase!): Audio out HDMI / StereoRCA / SPDIF / 2 times 3.5mm audio out jack Brightness 300 CD/m2 Communications 1GB Ethernet/802.11/Bluetooth Contrast Ratio 1:1000 CPU AMD Athlon X2 245e 2.9Ghz Dual Core Display Resolution Full HD 1080p 1920x1080 / 16:9 aspect ratio GPU AMD Radeon HD 6750 1GB GDDRS HDD 320 GB / 7200 RPM HDMI In / HDMI out Yes I/O Ports 4 USB, SD Card reader Operation System Embedded Windows 7 Professional 64 bits Panel Size 40” diagonal Protection Glass Gorilla Glass RAM 4 GB DD3 Weight / with standard legs 70.0 Kg / 154 lbs Weight / standalone 39.5 Kg / 87 lbs Height (without legs) 4 inch Contact points recognized > 50 Cool Factor Extremely   Ok, the last point is not official, but I do think it needs to be there. Let’s talk software. As noted, it runs Windows 7 Professional 64 bit, which means you can run Visual Studio 2010 on it. The software is going to be developed in WPF4.0 with the additional Surface SDK 2.0. It will contain all the things you’ve seen before plus some extra’s. They have taken some steps to align it more with the Surface Toolkit which you can download today, so if you do things right your software should be portable between a WPF4.0 Windows 7 Multi-touch app and the Surface v2 environment. It still uses infrared to detect contacts, so in that respect nothing much has changed conceptually. We still can differentiate between a finger, a tag or a blob. Of course, since the new platform has a much higher resolution (compared to the 1024x768 of the first version) you might need to look at your code again. I’ve seen a lot of applications on Surface that assume the old resolution and moving that to V2 is going to be some work. To be honest: as I am under NDA I cannot disclose much about the new software besides what I have told you here, but trust me: it’s going to blow people away. Now, the biggest question for me is: when can I get one? Until we can, have a look here: Tags van Technorati: surface,samsung,WPF

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  • Windows 8, the biggest struggle&hellip;.

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    As always, it’s hard to be original. It’s easy to copy great stuff others have done but to think of something nice that others might have done is not trivial. The number of applications in the Windows 8 Store is growing rappidly. That was to be expected; a lot of developers already have the skills needed to build Win8 apps so all it took was some ideas. And they have ideas. Another factor that helps with the growing number of apps in the store is the availability of the project templates in Visual Studio 2012. When you start a new project you are given a ready to run sample that you can adapt to your needs. All the stuff needed to navigate through the app, to display data, to do semantic zoom, it’s all available. So what do we do? We tweak, change, adapt and modify these samples to fit our application. However, the underlying structure of the app remains the same. Somehow developers can’t seem to break free from the structure that the sample apps give you. Result: all apps looks alike. My tip for the day: take the samples and use them to learn. Don’t use them as a foundation of your app. Make you app different from those others and you’ll find you will have something special. I’m curious to see what you come up with!

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  • Charms and the App Bar

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    Ok. I admit. I made a mistake in the last post about our planespotter app. I have dedicated a full part of the hub to Social. I also had a section called Friends but that made sense since I said that “Friends” is a special group of people that connect to each other through our app and only our app. Social however is sharing our spots with Twitter, Facebook and so on. Now, we could write that functionality in our app in a different section but there is one small problem with that: users don’t expect that. Ok, I admit. The mistake was quite deliberate to give me an excuse to write this part. But still: the mistake is one I see a lot. People are trying to do stuff in their application that they shouldn’t be doing. This always strike me as slightly odd: why do some work when others have already done it for you and you can just use it? After all: good developers are lazy (lazy people will always try to find the easiest way to do something and in development land this usually means the cleanest and best to support way…) So. What is that part that Microsoft has done for us and we don’t have to do ourselves? The answer lies on the right hand of your Win8 screen: This is a screenshot of my tablet (as you can see I am writing this right now….) When I swipe my finger from out of the screen on the right inside the screen (or move the mouse to the upper right corner) this menu will appear. Next to settings and the start menu button we’ll find the Search and the Share charms. These are two ways that your app can share the information it contains with the rest of the world, or at least: the rest of your system. So don’t write a Search feature in your app. Don’t write a Share feature in your app. It’s here already. Users, once they are used to Windows 8, will use that feature and expect it to work. If it doesn’t, they won’t like your app and you can kiss you dreams of everlasting fame goodbye. So use these two. What are they? Well, simply they are parts of a contract. In your app you say somewhere in code that you are supporting Search and Share. So when the user selects Share the system will interrogate the current app in the foreground if it supports this feature. Your app will say “But why, yes, I do!” Then the system will ask the app “Ok then, wisecrack, then share!” and you will have to provide the system with some information about the format. Other applications have subscribed to be at the receiving end of the Share contract. They have told the system that they support Sharing (receiving) and which formats they understand. If one or more of them support the formats you specify, the user will see them. The user clicks / taps on the app of their choice and data is moved from your app to the new one. So if you say you support Facebook and Twitter users can post data from your app to these networks by selecting Share. The same applies to Search. Don’t make a “search” button in your app but use the contract to tell the system that you support search and use that instead. Users will be grateful (remember that bar with men/women/creatures that are waiting for you?) The more and more people get to know Windows 8, the more they will use this. And if you are one of the people who wrote an app that helped them learn the system, well, that’s even better. So. We don’t have a Share or a Search button. We do have other buttons. Most important: we probably need a “New Spot” button. And a “Filter” might be useful. Or someway to open the camera so you can add a picture to the spot. Where will be put those? The answer is the “Appbar” . This is a application / context aware menu that slides up from the bottom of the screen when you move your finger / mouse from below the screen into it. From above downwards works just as well. Here you see an example of the appbar from the People app. (click on it for a larger version). This appears whenever you slide your finger up from below of down from above. This is where you put your commands. Remember, this is context aware so this menu will change when you are in different parts of your app or when you have selected different items. There are a few conventions when you create this appbar. First, the items on the right are “General” items, meaning they have little to do with what is on the screen right now. I think this would be a great place to add our “New Spot” icon. On the far left are items associated with the current selected item or screen. So if you have a spot selected, the button for Add Photo should be visible here and on the left hand side. Not everything is as clear as this, but this is what you should strive for. Group items together. And please note: this is the only place in Metro design where we are allowed to use lines as separators. So when you want to separate a group of icons from another group, add a line. Also note the simplicity of the buttons. No colors, no lights or shadows, no 3D. After a couple of years of fancy almost realistic looking icons people have finally decided that hey, this is a virtual world: it’s ok to look virtual as well. So make things as readable and clear as possible and don’t try to duplicate nature. It’s all about the information, remember? (If you don’t remember I’d like to point you to a older blog post of mine about the what and why of Metro). So.. think about the buttons a bit and think about Share and Search. What will you put there? Remember: this is the way the users interact with your apps and while you shouldn’t judge a book by its covers when it comes to people, this isn’t entirely so when it comes to apps. People DO judge an app by its looks and the way it feels. Take advantage of that. History has learned that a crappy app with a GREAT user interface gets better reviews than a GREAT app with a lousy UI… I know: developers will find this extremely unfair but that’s the world we live in (No, I am not saying you should deliver rubbish apps). Next time: we’ll start by building the darn thing!

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  • Free tools versus paid tools.

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    We live in a strange world. Information should be free. Tools should be free. Software should be free (and I mean free as in free beer, not as in free speech). Of course, since I make my living (and pay my mortgage) by writing software I tend to disagree. Or rather: I want to get paid for the things I do in the daytime. Next to that I also spend time on projects I feel are valuable for the community, which I do for free. The reason I can do that is because I get paid enough in the daytime to afford that time. It gives me a good feeling, I help others and it’s fun to do. But the baseline is: I get paid to write software. I am sure this goes for a lot of other developers. We get paid for what we do during the daytime and spend our free time giving back. So why does everyone always make a fuzz when a company suddenly starts to charge for software? To me, this seems like a very reasonable decision. Companies need money: they have staff to pay, buildings to rent, coffee to buy, etc. All of this doesn’t come free so it makes sense that they charge their customers for the things they produce. I know there’s a very big Open Source market out there, where companies give away (parts of) their software and get revenue out of the services they provide. But this doesn’t work if your product doesn’t need services. If you build a great tool that is very easy to use, and you give it away for free you won’t get any money by selling services that no user of your tool really needs. So what do you do? You charge money for your tool. It’s either that or stop developing the tool and turn to other, more profitable projects. Like it or not, that’s simple economics at work. You have something other people want, so you charge them for it. This week it was announced that what I believe is the most used tool for .net developers (besides Visual Studio of course),namely Red Gates .net reflector, will stop being a free tool. They will charge you $35 for the next version. Suddenly twitter was on fire and everyone was mad about it. But why? The tool is downloaded by so many developers that it must be valuable to them. I know of no serious .net developer who hasn’t got it on his or her machine. So apparently the tool gives them something they need. So why do they expect it to be free? There are developers out there maintaining and extending the tool, building new and better versions of it. And the price? $35 doesn’t seem much. If I think of the time the tool saved me the 35 dollars were earned back in a day. If by spending this amount of money I can rely on great software that helps me do my job better and faster, I have no problems by spending it. I know that there is a great team behind it, (the Red Gate tools are a must have when developing SQL systems, for instance), and I do believe they are in their right to charge this. So.. there you have it. This is of course, my opinion. You may think otherwise. Please let me know in the comments what you think! Tags van Technorati: redgate,reflector,opensource

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  • Speaking at Mix11

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    In April Microsoft will hold the next MIX event. MIX was usually targeted at web designers and developers but has grown over the years to be more a general conference focused on the web and devices. In other words: everything the normal consumer might encounter. It’s not your typical developers conference, although you’ll find many developers there as well. But next to the developers you’ll probably run into designers and user experience specialists as well. This year I am proud to say that I will be one of the people presenting there. Together with all the Surface MVP’s in the world (sounds impressive, but there are only 7 of us) we’ll host a panel discussion on all things Surface, NUI and everything else that matches those subjects. Here’s what the abstract says: The Natural User Interface (NUI) is a hot topic that generates a lot of excitement, but there are only a handful of companies doing real innovation with NUIs and most of the practical experience in the NUI style of design and development is limited to a small number of experts. The Microsoft Surface MVPs are a subset of these experts that have extensive real-world experience with Microsoft Surface and other NUI devices. This session is a panel featuring the Microsoft Surface MVPs and an unfiltered discussion with each other and the audience about the state of the art in NUI design and development. We will share our experiences and ideas, discuss what we think NUI will look like in the near future, and back up our statements with cutting-edge demonstrations prepared by the panelists involving combinations of Microsoft Surface 2.0, Kinect, and Windows Phone 7. We, as Surface MVPs think we are more than just Surface oriented. We like to think we are more NUI MVP’s. But since that’s not a technology with Microsoft you can’t actually become a NUI MVP so Surface is the one that comes the closest. We are currently working on the details of our session but believe me: it will blow you away. Several people we talked to have said this could potentially be the best session of Mix. Quite a challenge, but we’re up for it! Of course I won’t be telling you exactly what we’re going to do in Las Vegas but rest assured that when you visit our session you’ll leave with a lot of new ideas and hopefully be inspired to bring into practice what you’ve seen. Even if the technology we’ll show you isn’t readily available yet. So, if you are in Las Vegas between April 12th and 14th, please join Joshua Blake, Neil Roodyn, Rick Barraza, Bart Roozendaal, Josh Santangelo, Nicolas Calvi and myself for some NUI fun! See you in Vegas! Tags van Technorati: mix11,las vegas,surface,nui,kinecct

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  • Everythings changes, except that it doesn&rsquo;t

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    You may have noticed this. Microsoft launched a new product this week. Well, launched is a strong word, they announced it. They call it.. The Surface! What is it? Well, it’s a cool looking family of tablets designed for Windows 8. And I have to say: they look stunning and I can’t wait to have one. There’s just one thing.. The name..Where have I heard that before? Why, indeed! Yes, it is also the name of a new paradigm in computing: Surface Computing. You may have read something about that, here on this blog for instance. Well, in order to prevent confusion they have decided to rename Surface to Pixelsense. You know, the technology that drives the ‘camera’ inside the Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface…. So now, when we talk about Surface, we mean the new tablet. When we talk about Pixelsense we mean that big table… So there you have it… Welcome PixelSense! For more info see http://www.surface.com for the tablet and http://www.pixelsense.com for Pixelsense.

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  • Build 2012, the first post

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    Yes, I was one of the lucky few who made it to Build. Build, formerly known as the Professional Developers Conference (or PDC) is the place to be if you are a developer on the Microsoft platform. Since I take my job seriously I took out some time on my busy schedule, sighed at the thought of not seeing my family for another week and signed up for it. Now, before I talk about the amazing Surface devices (yes, this posting is written on one of them), the great Lumia 920 we all got, the long deserved love for touch, NUI and other things I have been talking about for years, I need to do some ranting. So if you are anxious to read about the technical goodies you’ll have to wait until the next post. Still here? Good. When I signed up for the Build conference during my holidays this summer it was pretty obvious that demand would be high. Therefor I made sure I was on time. But even though I registered only 7 minutes after the initial opening time the Early Bird discount for the first 500 attendees was already sold out. I later learned that registration actually started 5 minutes before the scheduled time but even though it is still impressive how fast things went. The whole event sold out in 57 minutes Or so they say… A lot of people got put on the waiting list. There was room for about 1500 attendees and I heard that at least 1000 people were on that waiting list, including a lot of people I know. Strangely, all of them got tickets assigned after 2 weeks. Here at the conference I heard from a guy from Nokia that they had shipped 2500 Lumia 920 phones. That number matches the rumors that the organization added 1000 extra tickets. This, of course is no problem. I am not an elitist and I think large crowds have a special atmosphere that I quite like. But…. The Microsoft Campus is not equipped for that sheer volume of visitors. That was painfully obvious during on-site registration where people had to stand in line for over 2 hours. The conference is spread out over 2 buildings, divided by a 15 minute busride (yes, the campus is that big). I have seen queues of over 200 people waiting for the bus and when that arrived it had a capacity of 16. I can assure you: that doesn’t fit. This of course means that travelling from one site to the other might take about 30 minutes. So you arrive at the session room just in time, only to find out it’s full. Since you can’ get into that session you try to find another one but now you’re even more late so you have no chance at all of entering. The doors are closed and you’re told: “Well, you can watch the live stream online”. Mmmm… So I spend thousands of dollars, a week away from home, family and work to be told I can also watch the sessions online? Are you fricking kidding me? I could go on but I won’t. You get the idea. It’s jus badly organized, something I am not really used to in my 20 years of experience at Microsoft events. Yes, I am disappointed. I hope a lot of people here in Redmond will also fill in the evals and that the organization next year will do a better job. Really, Build deserves better. </rantmode>

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  • Build 2012, some thoughts..

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    I think you probably read my rant about the logistics at Build 2012, as posted here, so I am not going into that anymore. Instead, let’s look at the content. (BTW If you did read that post and want some more info then read Nia Angelina’s post about Build. I have nothing to add to that.) As usual, there were good speakers and some speakers who could benefit from some speaker training. I find it hard to understand why Microsoft allows certain people on stage, people who speak English with such strong accents it’s hard for people, especially from abroad, to understand. Some basic training might be useful for some of them. However, it is nice to see that most speakers are project managers, program managers or even devs on the teams that build the stuff they talk about: there was a lot of knowledge on stage! And that means when you ask questions you get very relevant information. I realize I am not the average audience member here, I am regular speaker myself so I tend to look for other things when I am in a room than most audience members so my opinion might differ from others. All in all the knowledge of the speakers was above average but the presentation skills were most of the times below what I would describe as adequate. But let us look at the contents. Since the official name of the conference is Build Windows 2012 it is not surprising most of the talks were focused on building Windows 8 apps. Next to that, there was a lot of focus on Azure and of course Windows Phone 8 that launched the day before Build started. Most sessions dealt with C# and JavaScript although I did see a tendency to use C++ more. Touch. Well, that was the focus on a lot of sessions, that goes without saying. Microsoft is really betting on Touch these days and being a Touch oriented developer I can only applaud this. The term NUI is getting a bit outdated but the principles behind it certainly aren’t. The sessions did cover quite a lot on how to make your applications easy to use and easy to understand. However, not all is touch nowadays; still the majority of people use keyboard and mouse to interact with their machines (or, as I do, use keyboard, mouse AND touch at the same time). Microsoft understands this and has spend some serious thoughts on this as well. It was all about making your apps run everywhere on all sorts of devices and in all sorts of scenarios. I have seen a couple of sessions focusing on the portable class library and on sharing code between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. You get the feeling Microsoft is enabling us devs to write software that will be ubiquitous. They want your stuff to be all over the place and they do anything they can to help. To achieve that goal they provide us with brilliant SDK’s, great tooling, a very, very good backend in the form of Windows Azure (I was particularly impressed by the Mobility part of Azure) and some fantastic hardware. And speaking of hardware: the partners such as Acer, Lenovo and Dell are making hardware that puts Apple to a shame nowadays. To illustrate: in Bellevue (very close to Redmond where Microsoft HQ is) they have the Microsoft Store located very close to the Apple Store, so it’s easy to compare devices. And I have to say: the Microsoft offerings are much, much more appealing that what the Cupertino guys have to offer. That was very visible by the number of people visiting the stores: even on the day that Apple launched the iPad Mini there were more people in the Microsoft store than in the Apple store. So, the future looks like it’s going to be fun. Great hardware (did I mention the Nokia Lumia 920? No? It’s brilliant), great software (Windows 8 is in a league of its own), the best dev tools (Visual Studio 2012 is still the champion here) and a fantastic backend (Azure.. need I say more?). It’s up to us devs to fill up the stores with applications that matches this. To summarize: it is great to be a Windows developer. PS. Did I mention Surface RT? Man….. People were drooling all over it wherever I went. It is fantastic :-) Technorati Tags: Build,Windows 8,Windows Phone,Lumia,Surface,Microsoft

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  • Blogging from Office RT

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    During the last Build conference all attendees were given a brand new sparkling exciting Surface RT device (I love that machine despite its name but that's beside the point). On it came a version of Office 2013 RT, or better: the preview version. Now, I translated that term "Preview" to "Beta". Which is OK, since I've been using a lot of beta products from Microsoft and they all were great. And then I wanted to post a blogposting from Word. I knew I could, I have been doing this for a long time (I prefer Live Writer but that isn't available on Windows 8 RT). So I wrote the entry and hit "Publish". Instead of my blogsite I got a nice non-descriptive error telling me I couldn't post. So I fired up my other (Intel based) Win8 tablet, opened Word RT Preview, it loaded my blogpost (you've got to love the automatic synchronization through Skydrive) and tried from that machine. Same error. So, I installed Live Writer (remember, the other machine is Intel based) and posted from there. That worked like a charm. Apparently, there was something wrong with Word. I gave up and didn't think about it anymore. Yet… what you're reading now is written in Word 2013 RT on my Surface RT. So what did do? Simple: I updated from the Preview version to the final version. That's all there was to it. So…. If you're still on the preview I urge you to upgrade. You need to go to the "classic desktop update" window instead of going through the Windows Store App style update since Office is a desktop system, but once you do that you'll have the full version as well. Happy blogging!

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  • Windows Phone 7 event

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    This might not be of interest to anyone living outside of the Netherlands, but I still wanted to share this. On march 10th the dutch .net usergroup dotNed (of which I am chairman) organizes a LAN party together with the company Sevensteps. Sevensteps is a big player in the Surface area: they are one of the few companies whose applications are part of the standard tools you get when you buy a Surface unit. They were also present at the CES in Las Vegas earlier this year to introduce the SUR40, as mentioned in my previous post. But they do not only develop software for the Surface, they also do a lot of interesting things on other platforms. One of these is Windows Phone 7, or WP7 in short. Sevensteps and dotNed have joined forces to organize a free full day event where we will develop a WP7 application. The people attending will be developers (experienced and not so experienced on WP7), designers and all other sorts of people you’d expect in a project team. The day will start around 9.00 am and will end when the app is finished. We will form teams of both experienced and not experienced developers so that we can learn from each other. Each team will have their own task to perform, and in the end all parts will be assembled to form a killer WP7 app. As with everything that dotNed does this event is free for everyone. Microsoft will pay for dinner, Sevensteps will provide the room, lunch and ideas (and their expertise of course) and the rest is up to us! So if you are in The Netherlands that date, and you feel like hanging out with other WP7 or wannabe WP7 developers, join us! For more information (in Dutch) see http://www.dotned.nl Tags van Technorati: wp7,dotned

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  • Navigation in Win8 Metro Style applications

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    In Windows 8, Touch is, as they say, a first class citizen. Now, to be honest: they also said that in Windows 7. However in Win8 this is actually true. Applications are meant to be used by touch. Yes, you can still use mouse, keyboard and pen and your apps should take that into account but touch is where you should focus on initially. Will all users have touch enabled devices? No, not in the first place. I don’t think touchscreens will be on every device sold next year. But in 5 years? Who knows? Don’t forget: if your app is successful it will be around for a long time and by that time touchscreens will be everywhere. Another reason to embrace touch is that it’s easier to develop a touch-oriented app and then to make sure that keyboard, nouse and pen work as doing it the other way around. Porting a mouse-based application to a touch based application almost never works. The reverse gives you much more chances for success. That being said, there are some things that you need to think about. Most people have more than one finger, while most users only use one mouse at the time. Still, most touch-developers translate their mouse-knowledge to the touch and think they did a good job. Martin Tirion from Microsoft said that since Touch is a new language people face the same challenges they do when learning a new real spoken language. The first thing people try when learning a new language is simply replace the words in their native language to the newly learned words. At first they don’t care about grammar. To a native speaker of that other language this sounds all wrong but they still will be able to understand what the intention was. If you don’t believe me: try Google translate to translate something for you from your language to another and then back and see what happens. The same thing happens with Touch. Most developers translate a mouse-click into a tap-event and think they’re done. Well matey, you’re not done. Not by far. There are things you can do with a mouse that you cannot do with touch. Think hover. A mouse has the ability to ‘slide’ over UI elements. Touch doesn’t (I know: with Pen you can do this but I’m talking about actual fingers here). A touch is either there or it isn’t. And right-click? Forget about it. A click is a click.  Yes, you have more than one finger but the machine doesn’t know which finger you use… The other way around is also true. Like I said: most users only have one mouse but they are likely to have more than one finger. So how do we take that into account? Thinking about this is really worth the time: you might come up with some surprisingly good ideas! Still: don’t forget that not every user has touch-enabled hardware so make sure your app is useable for both groups. Keep this in mind: we’re going to need it later on! Now. Apps should be easy to use. You don’t want your user to read through pages and pages of documentation before they can use the app. Imagine that spotter next to an airfield suddenly seeing a prototype of a Concorde 2 landing on the nearby runway. He probably wants to enter that information in our app NOW and not after he’s taken a 3 day course. Even if he still has to download the app, install it for the first time and then run it he should be on his way immediately. At least, fast enough to note down the details of that unique, rare and possibly exciting sighting he just did. So.. How do we do this? Well, I am not talking about games here. Games are in a league of their own. They fall outside the scope of the apps I am describing. But all the others can roughly be characterized as being one of two flavors: the navigation is either flat or hierarchical. That’s it. And if it’s hierarchical it’s no more than three levels deep. Not more. Your users will get lost otherwise and we don’t want that. Flat is simple. Just imagine we have one screen that is as high as our physical screen is and as wide as you need it to be. Don’t worry if it doesn’t fit on the screen: people can scroll to the right and left. Don’t combine up/down and left/right scrolling: it’s confusing. Next to that, since most users will hold their device in landscape mode it’s very natural to scroll horizontal. So let’s use that when we have a flat model. The same applies to the hierarchical model. Try to have at most three levels. If you need more space, find a way to group the items in such a way that you can fit it in three, very wide lanes. At the highest level we have the so called hub level. This is the entry point of the app and as such it should give the user an immediate feeling of what the app is all about. If your app has categories if items then you might show these categories here. And while you’re at it: also show 2 or 3 of the items itself here to give the user a taste of what lies beneath. If the user selects a category you go to the section part. Here you show several sections (again, go as wide as you need) with again some detail examples. After that: the details layer shows each item. By giving some samples of the underlaying layer you achieve several things: you make the layer attractive by showing several different things, you show some highlights so the user sees actual content and you provide a shortcut to the layers underneath. The image below is borrowed from the http://design.windows.com website which has tons and tons of examples: For our app we’ll use this layout. So what will we show? Well, let’s see what sorts of features our app has to offer. I’ll repeat them here: Note planes Add pictures of that plane Notify friends of new spots Share new spots on social media Write down arrival times Write down departure times Write down the runway they take I am sure you can think of some more items but for now we'll use these. In the hub we’ll show something that represents “Spots”, “Friends”, “Social”. Apparently we have an inner list of spotter-friends that are in the app, while we also have to whole world in social. In the layer below we show something else, depending on what the user choose. When they choose “Spots” we’ll display the last spots, last spots by our friends (so we can actually jump from this category to the one next to it) and so on. When they choose a “spot” (or press the + icon in the App bar, which I’ll talk about next time) they go to the lowest and final level that shows details about that spot, including a picture, date and time and the notes belonging to that entry. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to organize your app this way. If you don’t have enough room in these three layers you probably could easily get away with grouping items. Take a look at our hub: we have three completely different things in one place. If you still can’t fit it all in in a logical and consistent way, chances are you are trying to do too much in this app. Go back to your mission statement, determine if it is specific enough and if your feature list helps that statement or makes it unclear. Go ahead. Give it a go! Next time we’ll talk about the look and feel, the charms and the app-bar….

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  • How to begin? Windows 8 Development

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    Ok. I convinced you in my last post to do some Win8 development. You want a piece of that cake, or whatever your reasons may be. Good! Welcome to the club! Now let me ask you a question: what are you going to write? Ah. That’s the big one, isn’t it? What indeed? If you have been creating applications for computers before you’re in for quite a shock. The way people perceive apps on a tablet is quite different from what we know as applications. There’s a reason we call them apps instead of applications! Yes, technically they are applications but we don’t call them apps only because it sounds cool. The abbreviated form of the word applications itself is a pointer. Apps are small. Apps are focused. Apps are more lightweight. Apps do one thing but they do that one thing extremely good. In the ‘old’ days we wrote huge systems. We build ecosystems of services, screens, databases and more to create a system that provides value for the user. Think about it: what application do you use most at work? Can you in one sentence describe what it is, or what it does and yet still distinctively describe its purpose? I doubt you can. Let’s have a look at Outlouk. We all know it and we all love or hate it. But what is it? A mail program? No, there’s so much more there: calendar, contacts, RSS feeds and so on. Some call it a ‘collaboration’  application but that’s not really true as well. After all, why should a collaboration application give me my schedule for the day? I think the best way to describe Outlook is “client for Exchange”  although that isn’t accurate either. Anyway: Outlook is a great application but it’s not an ‘app’ and therefor not very suitable for WinRT. Ok. Disclaimer here: yes, you can write big applications for WinRT. Some will. But that’s not what 99.9% of the developers will do. So I am stating here that big applications are not meant for WinRT. If 0.01% of the developers think that this is nonsense then they are welcome to go ahead but for the majority here this is not what we’re talking about. So: Apps are small, lightweight and good at what they do but only at that. If you’re a Phone developer you already know that: Phone apps on any platform fit the description I have above. If you’ve ever worked in a large cooperation before you might have seen one of these before: the Mission Statement. It’s supposed to be a oneliner that sums up what the company is supposed to do. Funny enough: although this doesn’t work for large companies it does work for defining your app. A mission statement for an app describes what it does. If it doesn’t fit in the mission statement then your app is going to get to big and will fail. A statement like this should be in the following style “<your app name> is the best app to <describe single task>” Fill in the blanks, write it and go! Mmm.. not really. There are some things there we need to think about. But the statement is a very, very important one. If you cannot fit your app in that line you’re preparing to fail. Your app will become to big, its purpose will be unclear and it will be hard to use. People won’t download it and those who do will give it a bad rating therefor preventing that huge success you’ve been dreaming about. Stick to the statement! Ok, let’s give it a try: “PlanesAreCool” is the best app to do planespotting in the field. You might have seen these people along runways of airports: taking photographs of airplanes and noting down their numbers and arrival- and departure times. We are going to help them out with our great app! If you look at the statement, can you guess what it does? I bet you can. If you find out it isn’t clear enough of if it’s too broad, refine it. This is probably the most important step in the development of your app so give it enough time! So. We’ve got the statement. Print it out, stick it to the wall and look at it. What does it tell you? If you see this, what do you think the app does? Write that down. Sit down with some friends and talk about it. What do they expect from an app like this? Write that down as well. Brainstorm. Make a list of features. This is mine: Note planes Look up aircraft carriers Add pictures of that plane Look up airfields Notify friends of new spots Look up details of a type of plane Plot a graph with arrival and departure times Share new spots on social media Look up history of a particular aircraft Compare your spots with friends Write down arrival times Write down departure times Write down wind conditions Write down the runway they take Look up weather conditions for next spotting day Invite friends to join you for a day of spotting. Now, I must make it clear that I am not a planespotter nor do I know what one does. So if the above list makes no sense, I apologize. There is a lesson: write apps for stuff you know about…. First of all, let’s look at our statement and then go through the list of features. Remove everything that has nothing to do with that statement! If you end up with an empty list, try again with both steps. Note planes Look up aircraft carriers Add pictures of that plane Look up airfields Notify friends of new spots Look up details of a type of plane Plot a graph with arrival and departure times Share new spots on social media Look up history of a particular aircraft Compare your spots with friends Write down arrival times Write down departure times Write down wind conditions Write down the runway they take Look up weather conditions for next spotting day Invite friends to join you for a day of spotting. That's better. The things I removed could be pretty useful to a plane spotter and could be fun to write. But do they match the statement? I said that the app is for spotting in the field, so “look up airfields” doesn’t belong there: I know where I am so why look it up? And the same goes for inviting friends or looking up the weather conditions for tomorrow. I am at the airfield right now, looking through my binoculars at the planes. I know the weather now and I don’t care about tomorrow. If you feel the items you’ve crossed out are valuable, then why not write another app? One that says “SpotNoter” is the best app for preparing a day of spotting with my friends. That’s a different app! Remember: Win8 apps are small and very good at doing ONE thing, and one thing only! If you have made that list, it’s time to prepare the navigation of your app. The navigation is how users see your app and how they use it. We’ll do that next time!

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  • Why bother writing an Windows 8 app?

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    So you want to know more about development for Window 8. Great! There are lots of reasons you should be excited about this. Since I don’t know why YOU are interested in this, I’ll make a list of reasons people can choose from. (as a side note: whenever I talk about Win8 development I am referring to the Metro Style / WinRt side of things. Apps for the ‘classic’ desktop side of Win8 on Intel are business as usual…) So… Why would you care about making an app for Windows 8? 1. It’s cool. Let’s not beat around the bush: if you like development for a hobby then you’ll love to work on this new platform. You can create apps in a relative short time (short time as in compared to writing a new CRM system) and that makes it great for a hobby product. 2. You’ll stand out. Hey, we all need an ego boost every now and then. We all need to feel special. So if you can manage to be one of the first to have you app in the Store then you’ll likely to be noticed. Just close your eyes for a moment and image you standing in a bar. It’s crowded, and then you casually say “Oh yeah, I just had my app certified and it’s in the Win8 store now”. People will stop talking, will offer you drinks and beautiful women / gorgeous man / furry creatures from Alpha Centauri (whatever your preferences are) will propose. Or maybe not. Anyway…. 3. Make some cash! IDC predicts there will be about 350,000,000 Windows 8 licenses sold in the next year. Think about that number. 350,000,000. And they all have access to the Store. Where you’re app will be. With one little click they can select it, download and somehow magically $1.00 or $2.00 from their bank account is transferred to yours. Now, I am not saying that all of those people will download and buy your app but what if only 1% of them did? Remember: there aren’t that many apps available yet….. 4. Learn. Creating new small apps is a great way to learn new stuff. Yes, you could read about it (on this blog for instance) but the only way to learn something is to do it. So be prepared for the future and learn something new by doing it.Write an app! Now! 5. The biggie (for me at least): it’s fun. Even if you remove the points above it’s still fun to write for these devices and this platform. Now some of you will say : “But why not write a great app for IOS or Android?” I think this is a valid question. Of course the novelty of the platform wears out and points 2 and 3 from above list will not be as relevant as it is today. But still 1 4 and 5 remain. And don’t forget: if you already work on the Microsoft platform it’s not that hard to learn this new Win8 stuff. If you have done some XAML development (be it WPF or Silverlight) you are almost there in becoming a good Win8 developer. So you’ll be more productive much sooner than when you have to learn Objective C or Java. Even if you’re a HTML / Javascript developer (I say developer here, not designer) you’ll be up to speed on Win8 development pretty soon. Yes, you, that funky Web Developer who lives and breathes HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript / Node.Js / JQuery: you too can be a Win8 developer. A first class Win8 developer! So.. Download the stuff you need from http://dev.windows.com install Windows 8 and Visual Studio 12 and by the time you’re ready I’ll be working on the next article: how to do all this? Happy coding!

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  • Where&rsquo;s my start button?

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    I have to be honest here for a moment. The one thing people most complain about when they talk about Windows 8 is that they miss the Start Button. You know, that dreaded thing that everybody hated when it was introduced… I usually don’t go into these kinds of discussions unless I am personally involved but this one I cannot let go. Why are people doing this? Windows 8 is a great OS. They have changed, updated and perfected so many things so there is enough to talk or write about. Yet, all articles or discussions come down to “Where’s my start button?” In order to save myself from having to explain this every single time I wrote this post and from now on I will simply refer to this blog when I get asked that question. Here it is. Your start menu is there. It’s right in front of your nose. It’s two dimensional, it’s got huge buttons (although they are more than just buttons, they’re alive and therefore called Live Tiles). Just go through those tiles and click what ever you want to start up. Don’t want to look for an item? Just start typing. Really it is that simple. When you are on the start screen just start typing (part of) the name of the program you want and you’ll find it.  As you see in the attached example I started typing “word” and it found Word, Wordfeud, Wordament etc. If you want to find something else besides a program (say you want to change the region you’re in) just click on Settings (it will already show you how many hits there are in that section). People, my request is: dive into something before you complain about it. Look around. This feature is so much easier to use than the old stuff. But you have to know about it. So. I won’t get into this discussion anymore.

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  • Our own Daily WTF

    - by Dennis Vroegop
    Originally posted on: http://geekswithblogs.net/dvroegop/archive/2014/08/20/our-own-daily-wtf.aspxIf you're a developer, you've probably heard of the website the DailyWTF. If you haven't, head on over to http://www.thedailywtf.com and read. And laugh. I'll wait. Read it? Good. If you're a bit like me probably you've been wondering how on earth some people ever get hired as a software engineer. Most of the stories there seem to weird to be true: no developer would write software like that right? And then you run into a little nugget of code one of your co-workers wrote. And then you realize: "Hey, it happens everywhere!" Look at this piece of art I found in our codebase recently: public static decimal ToDecimal(this string input) {     System.Globalization.CultureInfo cultureInfo = System.Globalization.CultureInfo.InstalledUICulture;     var numberFormatInfo = (System.Globalization.NumberFormatInfo)cultureInfo.NumberFormat.Clone();     int dotIndex = input.IndexOf(".");     int commaIndex = input.IndexOf(",");     if (dotIndex > commaIndex)         numberFormatInfo.NumberDecimalSeparator = ".";     else if (commaIndex > dotIndex)         numberFormatInfo.NumberDecimalSeparator = ",";     decimal result;     if (decimal.TryParse(input, System.Globalization.NumberStyles.Float, numberFormatInfo, out result))         return result;     else         throw new Exception(string.Format("Invalid input for decimal parsing: {0}. Decimal separator: {1}.", input, numberFormatInfo.NumberDecimalSeparator)); }  Me and a collegue have been looking long and hard at this and what we concluded was the following: Apparently, we don't trust our users to be able to correctly set the culture in Windows. Users aren't able to determine if they should tell Windows to use a decimal point or a comma to display numbers. So what we've done here is make sure that whatever the user enters, we'll translate that into whatever the user WANTS to enter instead of what he actually did. So if you set your locale to US, since you're a US citizen, but you want to enter the number 12.34 in the Dutch style (because, you know, the Dutch are way cooler with numbers) so you enter 12,34 we will understand this and respect your wishes! Of course, if you change your mind and in the next input field you decide to use the decimal dot again, that's fine with us as well. We will do the hard work. Now, I am all for smart software. Software that can handle all sorts of input the user can think of. But this feels a little uhm, I don't know.. wrong.. Or am I too old fashioned?

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  • Windows Web Server 2008 R2 Server Core local password complexity

    - by Dennis Allen
    How can I disable the local user account password complexity settings on Windows 2008 R2 "Server Core"? I am trying to migrate our windows 2003 web server to windows 2008 R2. I am trying to see if I can use the "Server Core" install, and it has been a very internet search intensive experience. What I can't find out how to do is to find out how to disable password complexity for local user accounts. While our user account generator currently creates nice strong passwords, there was a time when this was not the case and unfortunately forcing the users to change their password is not an option at this time. Any help greatly appreciated. Dennis

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