Sep 112014
 
Lately I’m working on a collaborative book project; three authors, one editor, and a small collection of raw content contributors.  It’s an exciting prospect but have to say, when it comes to co-managing a project like this sometimes little things become surprisingly big.  Like platform preferences.  Everyone has their pet tool and trying to get consensus on one easily reduces to finding the Least Worst Overall Not-Quite-Hated solution.  We’re working through that, but…

In our first conversation, Charlene the editor she asked me something about iPhones and the conversation went

Me: I wouldn’t know; I use a Windows Phone
Charlene: Oh, I’m sorry

So many ways to go with that… but suffice to say that from my perspective it proves how much more convincing a distortion field can be than reality.  I’m in no way impugning Charlene– she’s definitely sharp or I wouldn’t have started following her in the first place.  But Apple and others have done a spectacular job at misinforming even the discerning public.

Microsoft is included in that others category. Continue reading »

May 222014
 

June is looming and I’m excited: the second-ever Cowtown Code Camp is being held on the 14th and I hope to make it.

Last year it was thrilling enough that we even had this sort of event in Fort Worth; everyone in tech in DFW knows Addison, Irving, Frisco, Plano, Richardson and North Dallas are where you go for software and related events.  It’s a circle of cities that has held tightly to this honor for years, and facilitated a self-fulfilling situation.  Developers go because that’s where the events are, and the events are held there because developers go.  Breaking into that cycle, even for a single occasion, was special in and of itself. Continue reading »

Jan 102014
 

I’ve been working with various developer communities for several years, and there’s a common question I encounter regardless of the platform:

Q: “What should I work on?”

This isn’t always easy to answer specifically, because a great deal depends on the skills and interests of the person asking.  But there is an easy general response:

A: “Solve a problem for yourself.”

I’ve found that the developers not asking that question tend to do exactly that.  They have a need, see no available solution, and jump right into solving it for themselves.  Often enough, that tends to work for others as well. Continue reading »

Dec 062013
 

Greetings all!  It’s time to dive back into Windows Phone developer community land.  In this post I’ll be sharing the good and not-so-good news for WP development in my region, which is physically centered in the Dallas-Fort Worth area but also includes Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota.  I’ll summarize the year and share some ongoing/upcoming stuff too. Continue reading »

Oct 222013
 

appsweepstakes-216x100I’ve urged the Windows Developers in my outreach areas to enter their apps into Microsoft’s Tech Affiliate Sweepstakes on numerous occasions… but I haven’t really gone into just what that is.

The contest of course rewards a few randomly-selected developers and their community leaders each month for app submissions.  There’s a lot more to Tech Affiliate, however, than monthly cash prizes. Continue reading »

Oct 012013
 

Deliver HereI’ve just recently gotten serious about learning XAML for Windows Phone development, and it’s been a real rollercoaster.  Hours of bad-document-reading, tutorial-deciphering and hair-pulling punctuated by brief bursts of accidental success.  My wife has learned to ignore my cursing but my poor dog Peanut still runs under a corner desk when some seemingly innocent code breaks.

Part of the problem for myself (and others, based on threads on MSDN and stackoverflow) is that documentation is woefully incomplete.  Too many examples telling you WHAT needs to be done but annoyingly omitting critical HOWs.  Too many segments of potentially useful code lacking the necessary prerequisite references to run.

But I digress.  And if you just want to avoid further background and skip to the solution, scroll down.

I’m working on a C# Windows Phone geolocation app designed to route an email recipient to a person in need.  One of my goals as always is to craft the best user interface for the solution.  For touch devices, that often means stripping out conventional interface objects like buttons because they tend to occupy a layer between the user and what he or she wants to do.  In this case, I want the app’s Map object to be the center of attention, and most if not all user interaction to take place on or around it.  As is my norm, I dose this work with lots of context sensitivity.

I began with PNG objects like those shown in this post.  I got that working fine eventually; tap on the graphic, and a context menu of several options pops up.  Select one, and the graphic updates to reflect the user’s purpose.

But as I began the task of replacing Application Bar buttons with more Map-centric interaction objects, I began thinking that bitmap graphics were too low fidelity.  If I went with vectors, and added more Map layers, I could truly orient the user better and improve engagement.  The Map itself could host most of the UI.I Need HELP

It’s easy enough to add polygonal objects to XAML.  Many of the Windows Phone content objects can host them.  But once you get beyond simple shapes, editing can be a pain.  One quickly misses Adobe Illustrator.

I found a really sweet XAML export plugin for Illustrator, but the creator has been unable to update it past CS4.  I’m using Creative Cloud, and older plugins no longer function [edit: as one reader pointed out in comments, Microsoft’s Blend can import AI files.  Part of my purpose here was to identify a completely free solution.  For many uses, Inkscape works fine].  I discovered that the free vector editor Inkscape supports XAML export, so it was a no-brainer to bring my AI graphics into it and export.  Below is an SVG file of my Map Pushpin object:

`<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?>
<!– Generator: Adobe Illustrator 17.0.0, SVG Export Plug-In . SVG Version: 6.00 Build 0)  –>
<!DOCTYPE svg PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD SVG 1.1//EN” “http://www.w3.org/Graphics/SVG/1.1/DTD/svg11.dtd“>
<svg version=”1.1″ id=”Layer_1″ xmlns=”http://www.w3.org/2000/svg” xmlns:xlink=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink” x=”0px” y=”0px”
width=”28.263px” height=”72.538px” viewBox=”0 0 28.263 72.538″ enable-background=”new 0 0 28.263 72.538″ xml:space=”preserve”>
<circle fill=”#3D5EAB” fill-opacity=”0.9″ cx=”14.132″ cy=”7.041″ r=”7.041″/>
<path fill=”#3D5EAB” fill-opacity=”0.9″ d=”M14.132,16.012C6.327,16.012,0,22.339,0,30.143v0v42.395l28.263-28.263V30.143
C28.263,22.339,21.936,16.012,14.132,16.012z M22.332,44.275h-3.956v-8.347H9.814v8.347H5.872V23.784h3.942v8.076h8.562v-8.076
h3.956V44.275z”/></svg>`

I next exported that to XAML, getting:

`<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<Viewbox xmlns=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation” Stretch=”Uniform”><Canvas Name=”Layer_1″ Width=”28.263″ Height=”72.538″ Canvas.Left=”0″ Canvas.Top=”0″><Canvas.RenderTransform><TranslateTransform X=”0″ Y=”0″/></Canvas.RenderTransform><Canvas.Resources/><!–Unknown tag: metadata–><!–Unknown tag: sodipodi:namedview–><Ellipse xmlns:x=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml” Canvas.Left=”7.1″ Canvas.Top=”0″ Width=”14.1″ Height=”14.1″ Name=”circle3405″ Fill=”#E63D5EAB”/><Path xmlns:x=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml” Name=”path3407″ Fill=”#E63D5EAB”><Path.Data><PathGeometry Figures=”M14.132 16.012C6.327 16.012 0 22.339 0 30.143v0v42.395l28.263-28.263V30.143  C28.263 22.339 21.936 16.012 14.132 16.012z M22.332 44.275h-3.956v-8.347H9.814v8.347H5.872V23.784h3.942v8.076h8.562v-8.076  h3.956V44.275z” FillRule=”NonZero”/></Path.Data></Path></Canvas></Viewbox>`

I am LOSTOther than redundant schema info and unknown tags, it looked okay.  I cut out the portion I needed (Canvas tag content) and plopped it into a XAML MapOverlay in my project.  Visual Studio immediately complained:

TypeConverter for “PathFigureCollection” does not support converting from a string

The offending bit was the Figures object.  Time to Bing for an explanation… but while I found many examples of people encountering the error, there were no useful solutions.  Some mentioned Kaxaml, which I downloaded.  While it’s a very helpful tool for visualizing and troubleshooting XAML, it didn’t see any problems with my code and offered no way that I could see to refactor what I had into something Visual Studio would like.

The Solution

But reading more about the PathGeometry object tickled a few brain cells.  I found a Path example that looked like it would work for what I wanted.  So I changed the essential code to what follows (key portion in bold):

`<Canvas Name=”Layer_1″ Width=”28.263″ Height=”72.538″><Canvas.RenderTransform><TranslateTransform X=”210″ Y=”300″/></Canvas.RenderTransform><Ellipse Canvas.Left=”7.1″ Canvas.Top=”0″ Width=”14.1″ Height=”14.1″ Name=”circle3405″ Fill=”{StaticResource PhoneAccentBrush}” Opacity=”0.8″/><Path Name=”path3407″ Fill=”{StaticResource PhoneAccentBrush}” Data=”M14.132 16.012C6.327 16.012 0 22.339 0 30.143v0v42.395l28.263-28.263V30.143 C28.263 22.339 21.936 16.012 14.132 16.012z M22.332 44.275h-3.956v-8.347H9.814v8.347H5.872V23.784h3.942v8.076h8.562v-8.076 h3.956V44.275z” Opacity=”0.8″ /></Canvas>`I Want to Play

Success!  In a nutshell, the trick was to remove the PathGeometry and use the Figures string as Path Data…. which just makes sense.  My custom Pushpin rendered exactly as it should, and looked much sharper than the PNG bitmap.  Now to construct other UI elements, add Map layers, and wire up the events.  I’ll post more later, and will provide the full code on app release.

Hope you find this technique useful!

 

Aug 232013
 

I’m behind on publishing some content but an opportunity has come up that trumps just about everything else.  Except beer and pizza.  First the background.

Many of you know that for several years now I’ve been supporting creative communities, both on and offline.  If I really want to date myself then this activity goes back further than I’ll usually admit, to a stint as a writing forum moderator in the heyday of America Online.  Don’t judge: it meant free dial-up.  ;)

As you can see on LinkedIn, my more recent history has gone from Maemo to MeeGo to Windows Phone plus local Makers.  An interesting mix of communities that has helped me understand myriad arguments for and against various platforms and preferences, as well as learn to socialize with creative types from all walks of life.  This understanding has pushed my thinking above and away from the sort of religious dogma that can cripple a project, and in turn helped me (I think) be a really good all-around community leader.  And even as I’ve helped Nokia’s efforts to pull in Windows Phone developers, I’ve kept a watchful eye on Jolla and kept fairly current with Qt developments.  I even assisted Tuukka Ahoniemi with Qt outreach in Dallas (although other activities got in the way, something I would fix if I got this role).

Which leads me back to the opportunity.

Against all odds, I will be interviewing with Digia soon for an Online Community Manager position.  Exciting!  I think I’m the ideal candidate, and so do a few others who have already spoken on my behalf.  But landing this position will take some serious effort: they really want someone situated in Norway, Finland or Berlin.  I have to prove that I can do even better than someone in close proximity.

Now, I’ve done the remote working thing both voluntarily for the aforementioned communities and professionally for Nokia.  I know I can perform this role with the same success.   Heck, I’ve always said I can work from Antarctica as long as I had Internet.  I just need to convince Digia.

To that end, I’m looking to the communities I serve for advice.  What should I emphasize?  In what areas do I still require polish?  Feel free to add comments here.  Be critical if you feel led.  Or contact me privately, too.

I had a similar opportunity with Scarlet Motors at one point, and touched on that in an article about keeping a childlike aspect in communities, but unfortunately they lacked the means at the time to make it a paid position.  The Digia role will be full time, and involves work I love and have been preparing for.  I relish the opportunity to take lessons learned from other communities and see where it will support Qt’s desire for broader adoption.

I really, really want this job.  Your feedback will help, and perhaps so will lobbying Digia.  Make sure to hit Qt Project and Qt by Digia on twitter, as well as their Facebook page.  After all, a good online community manager should mobilize Internet citizens, right?  ;)

Thanks.

Aug 042013
 

In the last community update I included one upcoming hackathon and omitted some promotions.  Time to rectify the latter and expand on the former!

General Promotions

Unity has a new contest going for Windows platforms.  Big prizes involved!  From their website:

Unity and Microsoft are inviting Unity developers to enter a new contest by submitting beautifully crafted, high-quality new or existing games or content for the upcoming Windows Store Apps and Windows Phone 8 platforms. Over $100,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to a number of talented and lucky winners.

Deadline is September 30, 2013.  Get your game on now!

In arandallarnoldddition, Microsoft has created a program slightly similar in goals to Nokia’s DVLUP, called App Builder Rewards.  Might as well double-dip!

Finally, I missed that Microsoft Tech Affiliate had restarted the great APPortunity sweepstakes.  Submit your apps for August ASAP.

Remote/Virtual Hackathons/Events

Nothing to report yet– let me know if you discover any!  In addition to online events, those in any region I cover will be promoted here.

DFW Hackathons/Events

Here’s more info on what’s coming (I will not attend all events and/or all times; more on that as details firm up):

August 2013 NDDNUG Meeting
August 8 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM 2013
5543 Legacy Drive, Plano, TX (MedAssets bldg)
link: http://northdallas.net/location/

August 2013 FWDNUG Meeting
August 20 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM 2013
100 Pier 1 Pl, Fort Worth, TX (Pier 1 Home Office)
link: http://fwdnug2013aug-es2.eventbrite.com/?rank=1

UTD-Microsoft Windows 8 app dev workshop
August 20 9 AM to August 23 5 PM 2013
800 West Campbell Road, Richardson, Texas (University of Texas at Dallas, ECSS 2.412)
link: https://ezpay.utdallas.edu/C20239_ustores/web/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCTID=1055

UNT Startup Primer
September 6 6:00 PM to September 8 6:00 PM, 2013
Sycamore Hall 119, University of North Texas
307 Ave. B, Denton, TX 76201
link: http://untuniontickets.universitytickets.com/user_pages/event.asp?id=187&utm_source=Co-Founder&utm_campaign=CoFoundersLab+08082013

UNT Music Hackathon
September 13 6:30 PM to September 15 8:30 PM 2013
1155 Union Circle #305189 Denton, TX (Innovation Greenhouse)
link: http://innovation.unt.edu/events/september-2013/music-hackathon

20 over 20 Hackathon
September 19 12:00 PM to September 22 4:00 PM 2013 (team announcement September 18)
315 S. Cesar Chavez Blvd, 2nd Floor, Dallas, TX 75201 (Dialexa)
link: http://the20over20.com/

AIGA DFW Hackathon with Open Dallas
September 21 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM 2013
2919 Commerce St, Dallas , TX,
link: http://thecommondesk.com/event/aiga-dfw-hackathon-with-open-dallas/

HackerNest DFW September Tech Social
September 30 8:00 PM 2013
(No location yet)
link: http://www.meetup.com/HackerNestDFW/events/123491032/

LeadingAge Hackfest
October 25 7 PM (optional meetup) to October 27 5 PM 2013
650 Griffin Street, Dallas, TX (Convention Center)
link: http://leadingagehackfest.org/
link: http://www.meetup.com/LeadingAge-HackFest-in-Dallas-Group/events/132040302/

HackerNest DFW November Tech Social
November 25 8:00 PM 2013
(No location yet)
link: http://www.meetup.com/HackerNestDFW/events/123496772/

Others with no firm dates (more details to follow):

Nokia DVLUP Day DFW
August?  September?  2013

UNT Aged Well Hackathon
September 2013

Mobile Monday DFW – Windows Phone App Showcase
October? 2013

Nokiathon DFW
October?  November? 2013

UNT Energy Hackathon
November 2013

Hope to see some of you at one or more of these events!  Again, send me any I may have missed.

Jul 292013
 

me

Greetings all,

I’ve decided it makes much more sense to do all updates on this blog and email the link rather than send it all via email.  That way the content gets greater exposure and you have shorter emails.  ;)

Now onto business… topics are:

  • Nokia Promotions
  • Lumia 800s
  • General
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
    • Meetups
    • Hackathons

Nokia Promotions

I was about to launch a Windows Phone promotion tied to my local Civic hacking activities, but another need has come up and I’ll focus on that first.

The Nokia Developer Ambassadors are working hard to make sure we’re serving you in the best way possible.  That means having the most recent contact and program data for you.  I’ve already spoken with some of you individually, and others have responded to Rich Dunbar’s appeals, but consider this a broadcast to my community:

I’m doing a simple drawing and giving away some cool Nokia prizes for those meeting the criteria below.  You can win JBL Power Up Speakers, Wireless Charging Plate, or Nokia Purity Headset with Monster technology.

All you need to do is the following:

  1. Live in North Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska or South Dakota (see NOTE below if you live in USA or Canada but not in my region)
  2. Have a published Windows Phone app
  3. Send me the following (via email or blog comments) by midnight July 31, CST:
    • Full Name
    • Email address
    • Microsoft Dev Center name (not GUID)
    • DVLUP name (register ASAP if you’re not!)
    • City/State
    • Twitter name if you have one (not required)

If you’re out of my area, see http://richarddunbar.blogspot.com/2013/07/developer-registration-drive.html.

Note that I’ll launch the Civic Hacking promotion soon after this and will post a special announcement for it.

As for others that had been running, I’m sorry to say that the Microsoft Windows Phone Keep the Cash and APPortunity promotions have ended.  At this time I have no idea if anything else is coming from Microsoft (or other sponsors), but I will let you know once I do.

Lumia 800s

I’m happy to announce I’m almost out of Lumia 800s for app incentives.  Why happy?  This means you’ve all been busy!

But if you have not yet released a Windows Phone 7 or 8 app, make sure you get published ASAP to qualify for one of the remaining phones!  People tell me they make excellent reserve and test devices.

General

Many of you have already registered for the Mailchimp email list, and I appreciate it.  But I’m wondering now if it’s even necessary.  Since I’ll be using this blog more, maybe it makes sense to fully use its subscription and group communications abilities.  What do you think?  Let me know in comments.

Oh, and to get a view into what we Ambassadors do at big events, check out my recent write-up on //build/ 2013.

Finally, please share this article and related info about Nokia’s outreach to anyone you feel may be interested.  I am especially looking to connect with more schools in the DFW area.

Dallas – Fort Worth

Meetups

I’m still planning to put together DVLUP-specific meetups for the DFW area, called DVLUP Days.  The idea will be to get developers through a DVLUP challenge and an app ready for publishing in one day (if possible).  Should be fun!  Make sure you’re registered– if not, you’re missing out on benefits!

I’m also working on a Mobile Monday WP App Showcase for DFW, with some local powerhouse development firms.  I’m looking for developers to submit one of their apps for consideration.  If you’re selected, you’ll be presenting your app at an upcoming event.  The goal will be to get you more downloads, reviews and notice.  I will also do a special twitter push for the apps selected.  So start submitting!  Use email or this comments section.

Finally, we need to hold more general meetups as well.  I haven’t seen any scheduled recently by corporate or community leaders so I’ll be filling the gap as I can.

Hackathons

This fall is going to be busy in DFW!  The University of North Texas is planning three hackathons (September, October and November).  No details yet, but I’ll post when I have them!

There’s also the 20Over20 hackathon coming in a couple of months, running from September 19 through September 22.  It looks very interesting so far; check it out.

As for the planned Nokiathon, that’s still under discussion.  I’m excited at the possibility and hope to be able to schedule mine before too long.

That’s it!

Thanks everyone, and as always: call, tweet or email me at any time with any question, concern or proposal.  I will do my best to address your needs promptly!

 

Randall (Randy) Arnold
Nokia Developer Ambassador

Twitter: @NokiaDevNorthTX
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/texrat
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NokiaDeveloperOutreachNorthTexas

Jul 272013
 

In 2012 I “attended” Microsoft’s //build/ developer-focused event virtually, envious of friends with the good fortune to attend.  Thanks to my Nokia Developer Ambassador gig, this summer I got to enjoy the excitement first hand.  Instead of a lot of text, though, I’ll share some highlights with the focus on photos (all taken with a Nokia Lumia 920):

sim key

Here’s a little gift I had made up for fellow Ambassadors: a 3D printed, DVLUP-branded SIM key for unibody Nokia Lumia phones.  It replaces the stock key that can stab delicate areas.  Thanks to Shapeways for printing them up, and Rich Dunbar for approving the expense!

George

SoCal Ambassador George Salcedo waits for the rest of the gang on Day 1.

ant

Nokia Developer Champion lead Antoine Naaman shoots the cool Wall of Windows Phones.

Jambassadors

The Nokia “Jambassadors” team discussing their //build/ hackathon project.  From left to right: Paras Wadehra, Jan Hanneman, Lance McCarthy.

lance and jan

Boston area Ambassador Lance shares his thoughts with team member Jan (northwest region).

designing

I helped a little by designing a custom part for the project…

pad design

…and here’s the design in progress on SolidWorks.  Amazing that it runs on a Surface Pro!

Jan and 3D printer

I decided to print up two of the parts.  Here Jan enjoys watching one get underway on an UP Plus.

3D printer

Closer shot of the part in process.

Nokia booth

Meanwhile, the Nokia booth got really busy after we put out word about DVLUP tee shirts…

finished green pad

The 3D Systems team kindly printed up another part for us with one of their Cube devices.  It was extremely helpful to have this resource at the event!  There were 3D printers everywhere, cranking away on all sorts of things.

2 pads

The two completed parts.  Each took about 2 hours to print.  I hand-colored the red apple.

app at work

The end result.  Lance had the novel idea to combine a Netduino with a pressure transducer and replicate the “test your strength” carnival games on a smaller scale.  The parts I created were pads.  Unfortunately, the pad wore down the pressure transducer, putting the entry at risk, but Radio Shack saved the day with conductor repair compound.

leaderboard2

Look who tops the iSmack leader board!

interview

Peers voted iSmack the best app of the hackathon!  Here the Jambassadors are interviewed on stage by Microsoft’s Clint Rutkas for Channel 9.

Of course, there was a lot more going on, but these photos essentially cover where I was.  ;)  Hope to make it next year!

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