Technology

A Short Video About Telerik

A number of folks have asked me why I’ve joined Telerik. There are many good reasons, which I will highlight and detail over the next few weeks. That stated, I felt this video did a pretty good job of giving folks a small glimpse into what this company is all about:

As I navigate my way through my role, it will be my responsibility to introduce to its offerings and to demonstrate why – put simply – they’re awesome. Along the way, I’ll be working hard to support the developer community in Australia, New Zealand and beyond.

In the meantime, please check out our homepage and have a look around. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line at john.bristowe@telerik.com.

Get Your Learn On!

School

With September just around the corner, it’s time for getting ready to go back to school.

“Back to school” is the most frightening phrase in the English language to a 12 year old. But, for the rest of us, it’s a time of renewal and optimism around learning. That’s why I felt it would be a good opportunity for me to share with you some inspiration for getting your learn on!

To assist their learning, web developers need tools and many options exist. Your starting point should be microsoft.com/web. This is your one-stop-shop for access to a range of free tools and resources for web development. Notably, this is where you can download Microsoft WebMatrix, a free web development tool from Microsoft that includes everything you need for website development. Also, be sure to check out videos, tutorials, walkthroughs and much more here.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to level up on your skills with Windows Phone app development, check out the App Hub. Or, if you’re a student, check out DreamSpark. Here you’ll find free tools and resources that will get you up-to-speed on the “latest and greatest”, including information on Windows Phone Mango. We’ve recently published the Windows Phone SDK 7.1 RC. So, what are you waiting for? Download, install, and get crackin’!

Finally, I’ve been playing around with the Kinect for Windows SDK. And wow, talk about awesome! If you’re looking to skill up on integrating with the Kinect through motion and sound, download this SDK now. Build a demo and impress your friends. And if you’re looking for inspiration, check out some of the recent awesomeness done by the Coding4Fun team with the Kinect.

Visual Studio Lightswitch 2011 is Here!

If you’ve ever found yourself challenged with building data-centric business applications quickly, here’s some excellent news: Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011 is here!

Visual Studio Lightswitch is the simplest way to create data-centric business applications for the desktop and the cloud. Lightswitch is a visual development environment designed to help you create these applications quickly. By handling the generation of code and user interface, Lightswitch allows you to focus on what you know - your business. Lightswitch is a tool that’s flexible to your needs, allowing you to add custom code, controls and validation where you see fit. It features an extensibility model that enables Lightswitch applications to be augmented by third-party solutions. It also allows you adjust the deployment model of your applications, giving you the advantage of quick portability to accommodate changing requirements. All in all, Lightswitch provides a streamlined environment for quickly building and maintaining your data-centric business applications.

For more information about Lightswitch, make sure to check out the Lightswitch Developer Center where you can download a free, 90-day trial, watch instructional videos, download starter kits, install extensions, get training, and ask questions. You can also join the conversation online by following the Lightswitch team, @vslightswitch.

Frankly Speaking with Michael Kordahi

Frankly Speaking with Canada

As some of you know, I’m a fan of podcasts. There are a number that I listen to, including .NET Rocks!, Career Tools, Hanselminutes, This Developer’s Life and Windows Weekly. That stated, because there’s always been a special place in my heart for Australia (having lived there), I also listen to Frankly Speaking a fair bit.

AC and MKFrankly Speaking is a weekly update on the tech goings in the world with a special focus on Australia and Microsoft and is presented by Michael Kordahi (@delic8genius) and Andrew Coates (@coatsy) from Microsoft Australia.

Since Michael and I have been collaborating together on Make Awesome Web, we figured it would be a good opportunity for us to chat a little about it. Of course, that wasn’t the entire focus on our discussion. We also chatted about a few other things like brown M&Ms, the Vancouver riots, and some pretty cool web goop. Check it:

icon for podpress  Standard Podcast [00:46:00m]: Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download

Q&A with Matt Kiazyk on “Own This World” for Windows Phone 7

Matt Kiazyk (@mattkiazyk) hails from small town Manitoba and is a partner in Big Nerds in Disguise(BNID), an independent application development shop based out of Calgary, Alberta. Graduating in 2003 from Brandon University, he now works for an accounting firm in Brandon, Manitoba. He recently teamed up with the Big Nerds to make Own This World for the Windows Phone 7 device.Own This World is a geo-dependent online game that allows you to take over territories based on your location; think of it as playing a real-life game of Risk.

1) Who are you? 
I'm Matt Kiazyk, hailing from small town Manitoba and have been programming since the GOTO 100 days of my parents Vic 20. Recently, I've delved into the Windows Phone 7 market and have teamed up with Big Nerds in Disguise from Calgary to create the popular Own This World for Windows Phone 7.

2) Tell us a little about Big Nerds in Disguise (BNID). 
BNID formed in May 2009 with the intent of developing some apps for fun that we could sell. Our first app was a bit controversial so it didn't see the light so to speak. We went through some personnel changes to address our weaknesses (like graphics). By September 2009, we had two coders and an artist. I joined as a Windows Phone 7 developer during the summer of 2010. We are primarily focused on “scratching our own itches” for now, keeping our consulting separated from BNID.

3) What interests you in mobile game/app development? 
Probably having the ability to pull information or play a game anywhere in the world at any time is the most satisfying thing of mobile development. Simple things like seeing when a movie is playing or looking up an address is so simple nowadays. I laugh every time somebody asks where the phonebook is so they can look up a number!

 
Login Screen for Own This World

4) You've built a pretty interesting game called "Own This World". Please describe what it is and how it works. 
Own This World is a massively multiplayer, location dependent mobile game where the real world map has been split into millions of territories that you compete for with players that are also physically in the same area. For each 30 seconds you are in a territory, you gain a troop and the most troops in a territory owns it. If you have troops in a particular territory you can attack other players to gain control. It's built similar to a real-life game of Risk which is why it's been so popular.

 
Map Overlay in Own This World

5) How's the feedback been for "Own This World"? 
Tremendous. People love the idea. We have users who tell us stories on how they have taken a different way home from work just so they can get those territories nobody has claimed. We've had lots of feedback on our forums as well. With all the feedback we have received, our users have helped the game evolve over time.


Nightly Production of Resources in Own This World

6) Originally, you built "Own This World" for the iPhone. Now, you're bringing it to Windows Phone 7. Describe the process you went through to accomplish this. 
Own This World for iPhone was build with a web service back end, so data-wise, nothing needed to be changed, and simply needed to port the web calls to .NET. The rest of the UI was coded from scratch. For each screen, we would go through and say "OK, what do we want this screen to do". Then following the UI guidelines, we would create it and always go back to the first question. It worked quite well. Because the iPhone app is more mature, we also had to make the decisions on which features to cut out for version 1.0 or which features just won't work on Windows Phone 7.


Attack! Attack! (A screenshot from Own This World.)

7) What advice would you have for an iPhone developer who's considering bringing their application to Windows Phone 7? 
My advice would be to be ready to think simple for your user interface. Windows Phone 7 devices have a back button for a purpose, so there's no reason to have a close button if you don't need to. Next, follow the UI guidelines. It makes your app look professional and it integrates well into the overall experience.

8) Would you care to share what's next for "Own This World"? 
For Windows Phone 7, up next is catching up to the features of the iPhone version. Alliances are top priority. This will allow friends to team up together and share resources/territories to take over the world faster! As far as Own This World for both systems, coming up we'll have the ability to transport troops across territories. This will allow you to fortify your main territory or perhaps launch that attack on a user with more troops in hand.


Own This World – Leaderboard

Own This World is now available for Windows Phone 7 through Marketplace. Go check it out and let Matt, and the fine folks at BNID, know what you think!

Download for Windows Phone 7

ASP.NET MVC 3, WebMatrix and More!

Earlier today, Scott Guthrie (@scottgu) announced the release of ASP.NET MVC 3, IIS Express, SQL CE 4, Web Farm Framework, Orchard, WebMatrix. As Scott indicates in his exhaustive blog post, these products are free, build upon the .NET 4 and VS 2010 release, and add a ton of additional value to ASP.NET (both Web Forms and MVC) and the Microsoft Web Server stack. In addition to Scott’s blog post, you’ll find some great information on today’s announcements from the following blog posts:

If you’re itching to try out these bits, the easiest way to get them is with the (new) Web Platform Installer 3.0:

The Microsoft Web Platform Installer 3.0 (Web PI) is a free tool that makes getting the latest components of the Microsoft Web Platform, including Internet Information Services (IIS), SQL Server Express, .NET Framework and Visual Web Developer easy. The Web PI also makes it easy to install and run the most popular free web applications for blogging, content management and more with the built-in Windows Web Application Gallery.

Once downloaded and installed, you’ll find many of today’s releases listed in the various sections of the Web Platform Installer 3.0:

Web Platform Installer 3.0 – SpotlightWeb Platform Installer 3.0 – Products

As always, Scott Hanselman does a great job summarizing what some might be thinking with today’s announcements (with emphasis added by me):

Folks sometimes say "slow down, you're freaking me out, this is too much new stuff. What about my current stuff?" Here's a few statements from me personally on today's releases.

  • Just because ASP.NET MVC 3 came out today, doesn't mean WebForms doesn't have some cool features coming. Remember that "ASP.NET > ASP.NET MVC". You'll see features and improvements from both technologies move between MVC and WebForms.
  • IIS Express will integrate with VS2010 in SP1 and work with both WebForms and MVC.
  • You can mix Razor Views and Web Forms Views within MVC. The creation/existence of Razor doesn't obviate your existing work.
  • SQL Compact works great with WebForms as well as ASP.NET MVC, not to mention any .NET project. Ever want a tiny database for a command-line app and didn't want the headache? Bam.
  • SQL Compact database can be upgraded into full SQL Server databases when/if you outgrow SQL Compact.
  • While NuGet is bundled with ASP.NET MVC in today's release, you can use it for any .NET project type. Most NuGet libraries are not specific to ASP.NET MVC.

As I've said before, Microsoft is creating new LEGO pieces for software development to round our existing collection of bricks out. Be excited about these bricks, but remember they augment the existing ones, not replace them.

So, there you have it. A boat-load of new bits and products worth checking out. There’s lots of stuff to digest but as always, my team and I will make sure to help you understand what it all means for you, now and into the future. In short, if you’re a web developer, today is a very good day.

Creating Site Icons with the X-Icon Editor

Site icons (AKA, favicons) are used to help establish the identity of a website. When you navigate to a website with an associated site icon, most modern browsers will display it at various places in the user interface. Not only does Internet Explorer 9 support site icons but takes this experience a step further when a site is pinned to the taskbar. For example, if you pin the site, beautyoftheweb.ca to the taskbar, the site icon and its colour scheme are incorporated as part of the user interface, providing a more immersive experience:

Site icon from beautyoftheweb.ca integration in Internet Explorer 9

It's easy to associate a site icon with a website; all you need is an image (preferably, an .ICO file for broad compatibility) and a minor update to the markup of your page. (I'd recommend checking out Wikipedia's "Favicon" article for more information on how this done.) However, there are many web developers who neglect to do this. And that sucks because I consider site icons to be important from a design perspective since they help establish your website's identity.

Now, there are many tools that exist for creating site icons. However, I've found X-Icon Editor to be one of the simplest.

The X-Icon Editor is a HTML5 application that provides tools to create high-resolution site icons (.ICO file) with up to four different resolutions: 64x64, 32x32, 24x24 and 16x16 pixels:

X-Icon Editor running in Internet Explorer 9

As you can see in the image (above), the X-Icon Editor provides editing tools to create site icons from scratch. However, because I'm less graphically-inclined than most (AKA, "definitely NOT the world's greatest graphic designer"), I'd recommend that you start by importing an existing image:

X-Icon Editor upload dialog in Internet Explorer 9

From the X-Icon Editor FAQ: "X-Icon Editor allows multiple uploads of different images. The image formats currently supported are: .PNG, .JPG, .BMP, .GIF and .ICO. After importing an image, you can also crop dynamically just the area of the picture you would like to elaborate (not supported for .ICO)."

After importing an image into the X-Icon Editor, you're now ready to start editing your site icon:

X-Icon Editor with uploaded image in Internet Explorer 9

The X-Icon Editor provides many editing tools to modify the design of your site icon. (For background information of site icon design, I'd recommend checking out 3 Ways To Successfully Design Your FavIcon from the LogoDesignerBlog.) Once finished, you can preview your work and (more importantly) see how your site icon will look in Internet Explorer 9:

X-Icon Editor preview of site icon
The ability to preview your work-in-process is total awesome sauce because it saves a lot of time during the design process. Here, you can get a quick peek and make adjustments (if necessary).

Once you've finished your design, previewed your work and are happy with the final results, it's time to export your site icon:

X-Icon Editor site icon export

The X-Icon Editor will provide you with a .ICO file, embedded with the different resolutions you've specified. From here, it's simply a matter of uploading the .ICO file to your web server and associating your site icon via markup (as shown in the image above). That's it!

I really like the X-Icon Editor and would recommend that you check it out. More importantly, if you haven't created a site icon for your website, you really should consider it – especially for Internet Explorer 9!