This past weekend, Skyline Technologies held a Windows 8 Store app developer camp. As I stated in a previous post , our associates were directly involved in what apps to build. We collectively decided on six different apps with teams ranging from four to eight developers. We also had a team of designers that helped make the apps have a great look and feel. This was a very organic process in order to provide a great learning experience and a chance to work with colleagues outside of traditional engagements.

I believe Skyline Technologies has nailed it with this camp. It offered a fun environment for learning a cutting edge technology. It brought associates together and helped team build in a great way, as this post on our camps discusses. There is still work left to do before associates get their hands on a Windows Surface RT device because we need to get these apps to the Windows Store! The passion I witnessed over the weekend has continued as I’ve already seen teams sending emails, scheduling review meetings and staying on top of the finishing tasks.

As a teaser, each app falls into one of the categories listed below.

  • Games
  • Productivity
  • Recreational / Leisure
  • Sports
  • Child Organizations
  • Non-profit for community stewardship

For app technology stack, three are HTML, CSS and Javascript based and three are based on XAML and C#. I tried to gather as much feedback from the teams as I could. Most of the feedback from the XAML based teams was along the lines of, “I feel like I’m just doing XAML and C# and picking up bits specific about Windows 8”.  This drives home the point that if you know those languages already, you can get up to speed on making Windows 8 Store apps with your existing skill set. On the HTML, CSS and Javascript side there seemed to be more of a learning curve. I believe this is because WinJS is brand new and required research to figure out certain things. Also, for developers that may be used to an object-oriented language some of the patterns differ or are not needed in a functional language, which can bring up interesting architectural decisions. Finally, custom CSS that has been introduced for Windows 8 required reference material to often be used.

It’s worth mentioning that all of the teams used TFSpreview and we didn’t have any issues. It was great to see some of our project managers / scrum masters trying out the new features and tools.

I’ll have a wrap up post once the apps make it to the Windows Store so that everyone can check out what they offer, but in the mean time here are some photographs of the weekend.

I have the pleasure of being part of the .NET Rocks! Road Trip while they stop in Chicago on September 29th, 2012. Below is an excerpt from the event’s website.

With the release of Visual Studio 2012 and Windows 8 they decided to get a bigger RV and do it again but this time we’re taking advantage of them. On 9/29 .NET Rocks and That Conference are throwing a special 1 day only free event. Attendees have a day to immerse themselves in Windows 8, Visual Studio Azure and at the end watch a live recording of .NET Rocks. This is great opportunity for anyone interested in the Microsoft platform.

Get all of the details for the Chicago event at http://oneday.thatconference.com/

Earlier this year, my employer, Skyline Technologies decided to host a Give Camp for Riverview Gardens.

Building off of that success, we have decided to host a Windows 8 Developer Camp. The idea is to hold a two day event for our associates to get fully immersed in Windows 8 development with the ultimate goal of having the apps released to the Windows Store by the Windows 8 general availability date. We have already picked our dates and the event will be held on Saturday, September 15th and Sunday, September 16th, 2012. As a bonus to the Skyline associates that donate their time, Skyline will purchase a Windows 8 Surface RT (arm) device for them. How cool is that? It’s just one of the many benefits of working at Skyline.

We had an overwhelming amount of associates sign up and had to actually cut off registration. After all, there is a fair amount of planning and logistics that go into an event like this. Myself and 3 other associates are leading the way. In order to help ensure that everyone involved stays passionate, we wanted to include associates in determining what apps to build. We met over a week ago to have an ideate session in which we came up with over a dozen app ideas and then had a voting process to narrow down the selection. We are targeting to have somewhere between 4-7 apps.  Next up is for our associates to decide which app(s) they want to work on and get ready for the big weekend.

If you’re not sure about the potential market, you may find the following interesting. There are over 1.25 billion Windows desktops around the world. As successful as iOS devices (iPad, iPhone) are, there are only about 150 million of them and about 250 million Android devices. With the upgrade price to Windows 8 from XP, Vista and Windows 7 only being $39.99, Microsoft is making a good push at enticing people to upgrade. If you have bought or will buy a Windows 7 PC after June 2, 2012 the upgrade price is only $14.99. It will be interesting to see what effect those prices have on the market. There are also plenty of rumors about the Microsoft Surface prices being put at a price point below the iPad, which would help Microsoft take a big chunk of the tablet market. What does all of it mean? Well, as a developer, I think it means there is potential for a large market and a right now is the chance to get in early.

This event clearly shows how Skyline Technologies is excited about Windows 8 Apps! I’ll be sure to post updates as things progress.

I will be speaking at the MAD.NET Users Group on September 5th, 2012.

Get Yourself Kinect-ed! by Greg Levenhagen

The Kinect is waiting for you! All you have to do is reach out and make a move, literally. Since the Kinect SDK, Kinect for Windows hardware and commercial support for non-XBOX 360 applications has been released, you’re able to create amazing applications. Natural user interfaces are making their way to mainstream devices. By getting yourself Kinect-ed, you can be part of that revolution. Come see what the Kinect SDK offers, how to utilize the Kinect hardware features and most importantly how to develop with the Kinect.

We’ve recently added a new session to the That Conference lineup – Kids THAT Code, being held Monday, August 13th at 4:00 pm. I’ll be presenting to the kids on the Kinect.

Kids THAT Code

The organizers of That Conference know just how important succession planning is. After all we’ve solicited all of our kids to help out in the making of V1. We know a good number of you brought your family to enjoy all of that. Why not have them take a break from the water slides and introduce them to the world of software. We’ve got 600 teachers to choose from and we’re going to grab a couple to introduce your family to the world of software development.

I’ll be speaking at the WI.NET Users Group in Milwaukee on September 11, 2012. I hope to see you there!

How HTML5 Makes YOU a Windows 8 Metro App Dev Already!

Are you a web developer? Your toolset makes you a Windows 8 Metro app developer because HTML5 is now a first class citizen for making WinRT apps. Using HTML5 along with JavaScript and CSS3, Microsoft has enabled web developers from all platforms the ability to start app dev with a very low learning curve. Come see what that learning curve looks like, as Greg discusses what WinJS is and how to use it. You will learn about the basics of Metro patterns, navigation, async, and operating system integration.

I’ve had the pleasure of going through several Windows 8 PFE labs now and have been very happy with the process. The process is for developers working on Windows 8 Metro apps that want to publish to the Windows Store. Microsoft has offered the time of a Windows specialist to walk through your app, the certification process and guidelines. If your app is deemed ready by the specialist, they will provide a Windows Store token. Each lab session is scheduled for 2 hours, but I’ve found that by the 3rd and 4th apps you’ll already have your apps in solid condition and breeze right through the meeting.

You don’t need to go through the lab session for your 2nd, 3rd and n-th apps, but it may help. The reason I’ve been through several sessions is because of the use of multiple Windows Store accounts. If you intend on publishing from the same account, you can have up to six pending apps at any time. Pending means that you’ve reserved the app name within Windows Store for up to 1 year. It also appears that getting a token provides a 2 year waiver of the Windows Store developer fee, which is longer than the 1 year Windows Phone developer fee.

I have the wonderful opportunity to present 5 sessions at DevLink 2012. If you’re going, I would like to meet up and chat. I will also attend (travel plans permitting) the Windows 8 Developer Camp hosted by Jennifer Marsman the day before. Registration for that event is separate from DevLink and can be found at http://win8devcampchat.eventbrite.com/.

Using Contracts to Integrate with the Windows 8 Experience

Contracts are a new addition with Windows 8 Metro apps that provide a great user experience. For example, users want to Share information in a variety of ways and Windows 8 Metro Contracts allow for that. Come learn about how these Contracts work and how to implement built-in Contracts like Search, Share, PlayTo and Settings.

Using Azure with Windows Phone and Windows 8!

With phones, tablets and other devices exploding in market share, it’s important to know what technologies and tools will help you develop better applications. These devices are often short on processing power and storage, which is where Azure can really help out. Come see what it’s like to use Azure with Windows Phone and Windows 8, including examples with push notifications, storage and authentication for both platforms and a Metro application using the Azure Service Bus.

Parallel Programming in .NET and WinRT

Parallel programming remains a difficult task, but Microsoft keeps making things easier for developers. With the various constructs available, like the addition of the Task Parallel Library in .NET 4, it is important to know what is appropriate for different situations. Devices continue to gain cores and the cloud offers easily distributed computing, so developers should understand how to utilize the environments. Come for a walk-through of how and when to use these constructs, whether that is a mobile device, desktop application or the web. The examples will be C# focused, with JavaScript and F# discussed too.

Node.js, Java, PHP and Python with Azure? Why yes!

New languages and technologies keep finding their way to Azure. Need a Node.js web application? Want to use Eclipse and Java? Have an existing PHP application and want to move it to the cloud? All of these are possible and more! Come see how you can accomplish amazing things with Azure!

How to Ride the Service Bus with Azure

Do you like a loosely coupled architecture? Are you considering a hybrid application between the cloud and on-premise solutions? Are you building mobile applications with notifications and events? The Azure Service Bus can make your life much easier!

I will be hosting a Windows 8 Boot Camp at UW-Fox Valley on Friday, June 29th, 2012. You can register at http://windows8bootcamp.eventbrite.com/.

Windows 8 Boot Camp

Windows 8 changes everything.

Combining the broad reach of Windows, best-in-class developer tools, a reimagined user experience, support for new chipsets, and a built-in Store with industry-leading business terms — Windows 8 is the largest developer opportunity, ever.

Join us for this free, full-day event designed to share all the knowledge you need to start building Metro-style applications for Windows 8 – today.  We’ll begin by showing you how to use Visual Studio to code fast, fluid, immersive and beautiful Metro-style applications in HTML5/JavaScript and XAML/C#. Your existing investments in these languages carry forward, making Windows a no-compromise platform for developers.

Whatever language you choose, your app gets deep integration with the Windows shell, including notifications, live tiles, deep links, and contracts with other apps. And now you can build once and support all Windows customers, no matter what type of PC they have – from tablets to laptops to convertibles to desktops.

We’ll cap the day off with an open, hands-on lab session. It’s the perfect opportunity to get your dream application underway, or finish that app you’ve already started – with Windows 8 experts available to guide you through every step. Bring your laptop to join in the fun and show off your killer app.

Get started now!

Prerequisites:
· Please bring a notebook computer and your personal identification.
· If you plan to join in the hands-on segment, download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview ahead of time so you can get right to coding!
· And speaking of coding, you’ll want to download Visual Studio 11 Express for Windows 8 as well in order to be prepared.

* Power jacks and WiFi will be available for all attendees.

Keith Burnell and I will be hosting an Azure and MVC Boot Camp on Friday, June 22nd, 2012 at UW-Fox Valley. You can register at http://azureandmvcbootcamp.eventbrite.com/.

Azure and MVC Boot Camp

Spend a day with some of the nation’s leading web and cloud experts building an ASP.NET MVCweb application that runs in Windows Azure and hosts data in SQL Azure and/or Azure Storage. Together we will build an ASP.NET MVC web application using Razor, jQuery and OData that will be hosted in Windows Azure using several of Azure’s service offerings. We will explore web roles, cloud storage, SQL Azure, and common scenarios. We will show you how to sign up for free time in the cloud and even cover what should not be moved to cloud.

We will save time for open Q&A.

This will be a hands-on event where you will need a laptop configured with the required pieces.

Lunch and prizes will be provided.

ACTION ITEMS PRIOR TO ATTENDING THE EVENT to make the best use of your time at the Windows Azure/ASP.NET MVC Kick Start Event, you must prepare the following requirements before the event:

* WiFi will be accessible on campus, but please download the prerequisites prior to the event.

* Power jacks are available on the top of each desk.