Tech Guides is Live in the Windows Store

I recently launched an app called Tech Guides. It is powered by Pearson’s Visual QuickStart Guides and is all things tech learning related. I am taking the Lean Startup approach on this to get something out in the market quickly and then iterate on it with each release.

Release 1 is the Minimum Viable Product with base functionality. Ability to get the guides from Pearson and display them. It also allows for viewing all of the chapters and content. There are even external links that will open up in snap mode as well as dynamic layout changes based on the viewable area.

Release 2 will look to add some of the following features:

  • Offline mode
  • Bookmarks
  • Chapter Navigation
  • Internal linking

Here is a description of the app and a link to download.

screenshot_12202013_160739
Tech Guides helps you learn all things technology. Powered by Pearson’s Visual QuickStart Guies, it is a great way to learn quickly and improve your skills. With topics like HTML5 and CSS you can become an advance web designer. Want to improve your design skills, Photoshop guides can help. Have a new device that you need to know the ins and outs of, look at the iPad guide. Even topics like PHP and WordPress can turn you into a coder in no time.

With more than 12 million copies in print, Visual QuickStart Guides have been a vital part of the computer book category for years and are an established and trusted resource for creative people. It’s easy to get up and running in no time with these best-selling quick-reference guides, and master a new application or technology. Visual QuickStart Guides contain concise, step-by-step explanations of core tools and tasks with plenty of helpful screen shots to keep students and professionals on track as they work.

Key Features Include:
Proven tutorial and reference format with over 15 years of success
Concise, straightforward steps and explanations
Step-by-step guides developed by teachers and experts in the field
Includes guides for WordPress, PHP, HTML5, CSS, iPad, Photoshop and more!
Hand-picked content based on the most in demand topics from real users and students

The app was built using JavaScript and calling the Pearson REST API. Stay tuned for more features like offline mode, bookmarking, better chapter navigation.

Windows 8 App Development. The Time is NOW!

There is a lot of momentum with Windows 8 right now. From the launch of the Nokia 2520 to all of the Windows Phones and other tablets, it is a great time to be part of the Windows ecosystem.

With that said, it is a great time for Students and Developers to start building apps and games for the Windows Platform. Listed below are a few promotions going on.

 

App Builder Rewards: Double Points December

App Builder
Publish an app in December • Complete the quest • Earn 10,000 points

It’s Double Points December! Publish your app in the Windows Store and complete the “Apps Quest” between December 1st and 31st 2013, and you’ll get double points for up to 8 apps. The more apps you submit, the more you earn.  Join App Builder Rewards today! https://build.windowsstore.com/rewards

 

Build an app this holiday season and ring in the new year with some cash in your pocket

Holiday App Challenge

We are excited to announce the Windows 8 Holiday App Challenge. Spend your winter break coding an awesome new app to be eligible to win up to $150. Full contest details can be found at http://windows8challenge.com.

How to participate?

  1. Develop a Windows 8 app. Submit your app to http://aka.ms/HolidayAppChallengeSubmission to be eligible to win av$50 gift card.
  2. Promote your app to get 100 downloads. Visit www.windows8challenge.com for tips and tricks to get 100 downloads in no time!
  3. Confirm your app has 100 downloads. Submit your confirmation at http://aka.ms/HolidayAppDownloadConfirmation to be eligible to win an additional $100 gift card. The contest ends on January 15th, 2014.

Offer terms and conditions: http://aka.ms/HolidayAppOfferTerms.

 

The Modev Windows $10k App Contest

MoDev Contest

We’re looking for those game changers, industry disruptors—denizens of creative awesome from across the developer community. We’ll award prizes two ways:

  1. An impartial panel of judges will pick the top three apps from among the entries and award prizes
  2. We’ll put the pool of entries up for a public vote, and encourage some healthy competition between entrants to promote your app and get the public to vote for you

To qualify, entrants need to submit new Windows 8 or Windows Phone apps to the Windows Store or Windows Phone Store between October 1 and December 31, 2013, and fill out the Contest Entry form. Judging and public voting will begin in January 2014, with winners announced by January 31st.

 

The Lean Startup and Nutty Squirrel

When I first came aboard at Microsoft, the Director of Evangelism, Bob Familiar, handed me a book and said “read it”. Not really, but he gave me the book and told me about how we can utilize the books story to help developers build apps. The book was called The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.leanstartup

When I first was handed the book a few things rushed into my mind. The first being what does Microsoft know about “Lean Startup” and the second was why does this apply to building apps? Bob further explained about the principles in the book and it all made sense. After reading the book, not only can I talk about the major principles but I apply them to my projects.

The Lean Startup is an approach not only developers of apps can take advantage of, but anyone that has an idea or wants to be an entrepreneur. It is continuing on your idea by innovating, measuring, learning and adapting. The author, Eric Ries, goes into detail about experiences he had with his company along with examples of other companies.

The biggest takeaway I am using from the book is the Minimum Viable Product. This hits home with developers immediately. What is the minimum feature set and functionality that you can put into a product that will make it viable to the consumer?

When I host events for developers and students, especially game development events, they all come in thinking they will build the next Halo 4. That is just not the case. There is a thing called Time, Money and Resources that just make that impossible. However, the MVP approach can help a bit with that.

I do use Halo as an example. I tell the audience that there is no harm in having a goal of creating it, but start with the MVP and get that out to the consumer. Maybe it is one level and 2 enemies. Maybe there are no power ups or weapon selection but there are scores and leaderboards. Work on that. Get that in the hands of consumers and test the waters. Measure from the feedback. Did anyone download it? Reviews? Etc. Then learn and adapt accordingly.

Another thing that I am a big believer is if you are going to “talk the talk, you need to walk the walk”. So that is the approach I am taking with my development. What functions and features can I put into a product to make it viable for the consumer without sacrificing quality?Screenshot.242603.100000 In my first release of Nutty Squirrel, I just included 2 levels and high score. I wanted to get the game out there pretty quick to see if there was any interest in a silly squirrel who chases acorns as a game. Well in close to 2 weeks I hit 700 downloads. Might not sound like a lot but to me that was a success. So I worked on a few more levels for a total of 4. I now have a level selector and added a few more features as well. When I submitted it to the store on Tuesday I had over 1000 on version 1. As of today I am at 1093 and still growing.

I know Nutty Squirrel is not Halo or any of the companies mentioned in the book. However, if I waited until my final vision was complete (a total of 12 levels) it would not be in the store and gaining traction. Developers and students get that. They see what is attainable by creating a Minimum Viable Product.
Another example I give the developers and students are my experiences in the digital agency world. Before I joined Microsoft I was a technical director in digital agencies for close to 15 years. With agencies more often than not you are working on a fix bid cost for a project. There are 2 major problems with fixed bid projects. The first being the “fixed” part about it. It is difficult to go back and get extra dollars for the project after the client has committed a dollar amount. And the second is the bid. Most times you are “bidding” on something that is not defined nor even known about. Both of these items end up working against each other in the end. You most likely come out of the project over budget and under fulfilled.

Example: Client wants a new website that focuses on a new product launch. We can use recipes and a promotion to help drive awareness and activation. At first glance we provide a few key features and some high level designs and user experience along with a price. Then negotiations happen. Most of the time price comes down but due date and feature request stays the same. What ends up happening at the end of the project is we need to scale back on what we can deliver. Instead of 1000 recipes, we can deliver only 200. Stock images have to be used due to timing and money. Searching, SEO, Social functions and some other items needs to be scaled back as well. What ends up happening is the site is launched, few bugs but not at 100% of what we “could” have done. Reason is there was no Minimum Viable Approach. If we took the same project and used MVP maybe recipes just would be the focus. Images and Metadata along with rich snippets would be the focus. Get a great recipe section out and then work on promotions etc. for the next release.

Easy to say now, but if we all think in the way to determine what would be the minimum amount of functionality would be to create a viable and quality product that consumers would engage in then more products and projects could be a bit more successful. And on top of that, to adjust or to change direction would also be a bit easier because you are still at a minimum feature set.

If you have not heard or want to learn more about The Lean Startup, please pick up a book or go to one of the seminars. It opened my eyes from a product development standpoint and is hitting home with my audience.

Windows Game Building with Construct 2 in Farmington CT

I will be hosting another workshop at our Farmington CT office. This one is focused on casual game development using Construct 2. This is a beginner level workshop and we will cover the basics of game design and programming using Windows 8 and Construct 2.

Ricardo_Retro_Atack

This workshop is great for students, hobbyists and professional developers who want to learn the basics of game development and publish their first app to the store as no programming skills are required!

This workshop is hands-on, so to get the most out of the event we strongly encourage you to bring your laptop configured with the following:

1.  Mac users only: Boot CampParallels DesktopVirtualBox orVMWare Fusion

2.  Windows 8 (a 90-day evaluation version available here)

3.  Visual Studio 2013 Professional (Trial or free for DreamSpark or MSDN subscribers) or Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows 8 (free for anyone)

4.  Scirra Construct 2 (free version)

To publish to the Windows Store you will also need a Windows Store developer account:

1.  If you are a student, use the DreamSpark benefits for a free account

2.  If you are an MSDN Subscriber, use the one-time free account benefit associated with MSDN

3.  Otherwise, the account is $49 per annum, but via the free App Builder Rewards program, you can accrue points to cover the fee as well have access to technical and marketing resources as you launch your application in the marketplace.

Sign up on Meetup.

 

Windows 8 App Developer Workshop Farmington CT

Screenshot (3)Attend a free hands-on workshop this weekend, October 12th 2013! This one is perfect for beginning developers and experienced coders alike. Get individual guidance on designing, building, marketing and publishing your app. Who knows? Your app could entertain, educate or even change the world!

The App Development Workshops provide you Windows 8 and Windows Phone starter kits based on well-known open data API’s such as Twitter, Meetup, Instagram, Edmunds and many more.

By attending a workshop you will:

1. Code Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps by leveraging our API starter kits
2. Publish your apps to the Windows and Windows Phone stores
3. Market your app online and through social media to drive downloads

Workshop Agenda

Hour 1 Presentation: Getting started with the Windows App Starter Kits

Hours 2 & 3 Code your app following our Hands-On Lab Workbooks and get expert, personal help with your project

Hour 4 Presentation: Marketing Apps 101

Refreshments will be served

MeetupSign up over at Meetup.

 

View the resources need for this event.

 

Awesome Chance to win Cash for your App

Co-Branded-Header_650x150
Just this week on 10/1, some friends at MoDev announced a contest, for a chance to win cash prizes, totaling $10K.  My favorite part, is that you can actually control whether or not you win, with a public vote, which will occur after the contest entry period ends on 12/31.  You just have to get your friends (and their friends) to vote for your app! Helps drive awareness for your published app & increase your downloads, but also increases your chance to win.  Check out the details below.

The Modev Windows $10k App Contest

We’re looking for those game changers, industry disruptors—denizens of creative awesome from across the developer community. We’ll award prizes two ways:

 

  1. An impartial panel of judges will pick the top three apps from among the entries and award prizes
  2. We’ll put the pool of entries up for a public vote, and encourage some healthy competition between entrants to promote your app and get the public to vote for you

 

To qualify, entrants need to submit new Windows 8 or Windows Phone apps to the Windows Store or Windows Phone Store between October 1 and December 31, 2013, and fill out the Contest Entry form. Judging and public voting will begin in January 2014, with winners announced by January 31st.

Successful Windows Game Development Event in Farmington

Screenshot (3)

On September 28th, Microsoft Technical Evangelist Jim O’Neil held a Windows Game Development workshop in the Farmington campus. I was in attendance as a “shadow” since I have not held an event yet. My first event is on October 12th in Farmington (more on that later). We had 16 attendees that were a mix of young adults, hardcore developers and developers wanting to learn more about Windows Game Development.

Jim took the lead by introducing some casual gaming concepts and tools to create these games. He showed off a few of his games along with some others that are in the store. The audience provided great feedback in terms of what they would like to see and try to create. Once the slides were out of the way, we got down to creating apps.

Screenshot (2)

We used Construct 2 to demonstrate how easy it is to get started. If you are not familiar with Construct 2, it is an IDE built on top of Visual Studio. They make the interface very simple to create casual games such as some platformers, top down views along with a few others.

We modified the standard Constcut 2 turtorial to add some Windows features, such as Touch and Snapped Mode. (These Windows Game templates can be found on our Github repository.) After adding the objects to the screen, we got into the event handling aspect of Construct 2. The ease of putting together commands for all of the objects can allow even the novice developer to become seasoned quickly.

The theory behind the “event sheet” in Construct 2 is the same pattern and practice as other development methodologies such as MVC. In the MVC pattern, you have the Model, which is your data storage or object. In Construct 2 these are the Sprites, System, Touch etc. The View which is your presentation of the Model can be found in the Layouts of Construct 2. And then you have the Controller, which provides access to the Model and the View for handling and manipulating data or business rules. This is the Event Sheet.

After wiring up the event sheets to the objects we got a full functioning game by lunch time. There is still more to do, such as exporting to Visual Studio and then importing into the Windows Store but this gave the audience a great jump start on building a game.

So what’s next? Finish that game. Or take our starter kits and build upon them.

If gaming is not for you, then on October 12th I will be going over app development for Windows 8. We will be looking at Bing maps and plotting data points all with HTML5 and JavaScript.

meetup_logo

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

3 Windows Store Games to Check Out from Small Dev Shops

We all know about the LARGE development shops that create the popular games. At some point in time the makers of Angry Birds (Rovio) were small. I am not saying any of these games will be the next Angry Birds on the Windows platform, but, they are entertaining and worth checking out.

Zombie Pop

Zombie Pop

Fight back the unthinking, undead hordes with your zombie-swapping, color-matching prowess. In this fun twist on classic match-three games, the jewels are zombies who must be stopped. Slow the creeping menace by tapping crowds of three or more zombies of the same color, and watch them collapse, even as more join them. Can you stem the tide, or will you succumb to the zombie invasion

Zombie Lines

Zombie Lines

How long would you last during a zombie apocalypse? Take the test with this new kind of zombie game and find out. Clear rows of advancing undead with a unique matching system. Group sets of three or more matching zombies to kill them (again) and fight back. Compare your score with friends to decide who is most likely to survive when the dead walk the Earth!

Junk Rocket

Junk Rocket

Aliens have destroyed all of the best and brightest in the world, and now it’s up to one brave soul and his crew of poorly trained technicians to mount a desperate counterattack. Use your junk cannons to prepare your ship for the ravages of space, and then navigate your way to the alien overlord for a thrilling showdown!

Keep Track of Your Local Rivers

Screenshot.202925.100000Weather has always been unpredictable, just ask anyone who lives in Florida. However, when we look at patterns we can “sorta” predict weather. There is an app in the Windows Store that looks at these patterns to display rising rivers in your area. Why is this useful? Well, have you seen what happened in Colorado or even in Austin?

Fluvium (Fluvial – term used in geography and Earth science to refer to the processes associated with rivers and streams and thedeposits and landforms created by them – Wikipediaallows you to find nearby rivers and add them to your watch list. Data comes in from the USGS is updated every fifteen minutes, providing close to real-time monitoring. There are thousands of USGS monitored sites that you can choose from and add in Bing Maps integration to give you a pinpoint view of the area.

The app is definitely worth checking out.

Webinar for Startups Sponsored by Microsoft Ventures

uvanyLeaders from Microsoft Ventures will discuss:

• Resources and tools that support growth oriented companies
• The business and technical aspects of building a startup, including training on cloud and mobile technologies
• How startups can partner with large corporations
• Programs such as Microsoft Accelerators, Microsoft BizSpark and the Microsoft Seed Fund
• How Microsoft Ventures supports the startup community to encourage innovation.

Live broadcast from the offices of Nixon Peabody in NYC

Hosted by: Todd Tidgewell, Partner, Nixon Peabody LLP

Thanks to our Exclusive Event Sponsor:

ms-ventures

And our Industry Partner:

bianys

Click here to Register Now!

After you register, call in information will be emailed to you.

In addition, as a member of the UVANY community, qualified
startups get access to free software and tools through the Microsoft BizSpark program.

Microsoft® BizSpark® is a global program for startups with over 50K+ members in a 100 countries, that helps provide access to free software development tools (including Dev tools, Office, Windows and SQL), training and visibility. There is no cost to being in this program.

Simply sign up using the code below to get your free BizSpark program benefits:

http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/Register.aspx?SecurityCode=xWLmknmBr8