Windows Phone Apps Download Count Challenge

As I mentioned previously, Dave Glover had another competition running for the most download app, with 30 Nokia Lumia 800’s to give away. I submitted Memory Classic which had at the time, 2,023 downloads, and is currently at 2,500.

Memory Classic

The classic game of Memory Match with a standard set of playing cards. This game comes complete with 3 difficulty levels with up to 21 pairs to match. Game high scores and statistics are recorded to ensure you always have a goal to beat.

Easy 4 5
Normal 5 6
Hard 6 7

Memory Classic - Easy Memory Classic - Start Screen Memory Classic - High Scores

This time I was successful and Dave sent me a beautiful, Nokia Lumia 800. Thanks Dave!

Nokia Lumia 800

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hack::Brisbane – PlaygroundCommunity

With the releasing of public data from Australian governments the Brisbane City Council (BCC) has done an awesome job making available a large range of data sets. To encourage the development community make good of this data BCC ran a competition, hack::Brisbane. The goal was to create anything to help improve Brisbane using this data in an app, web site or tool. The prize: $10,000. That was too big for me (and many other developers!) to ignore. Months of late nights were spent getting something done to enter.

What I came up with, was a very self-serving web site that hopefully serves many other Brisbane parents, and will work better if it does. For a little background, Brisbane has great weather; warm and sunny most the year. I have 3 young boys and we like to be outside as much as possible. Very often on a Saturday, if we have nothing on, and the weather is good, we like to go to a local playground. Brisbane has lots of brilliant playgrounds; over 1000 playgrounds. We like variety. Finding new playgrounds to try however, is more difficult than it needs to be. The BCC does have the information on its web site, but it is in lists by suburb of Parks. Of which you would need to check the details if it has a playground. As you can see below, not the nicest way to browse:

Listed Suburbs

Suburb Park Details

As you can also see, if you go to the site, there is more going on in the parks, like active parks events, exercise equipment, walking groupsreal adventure women events,  kids and teenager chill out programs, skate parksboat/canoe ramps, dog off-leash areas, bush land areas, bikeways and shared pathways, and featured parks which has a whole other list again. Each of these is displayed in a different way, lists of lists, PDF’s, RSS feeds and interactive maps. I would commonly browse the parks lists for playgrounds but with the release of the playground data, complete with Latitude and Longitude coordinates, I knew there was a better way. Welcome PlaygroundCommunity.

PlaygroundCommunity Web Site

Here’s the spiel I put on the About page:

Playground Community exposes in an easy to browse way all the wonderful playgrounds that Brisbane has on offer. It is especially useful for parents to find local or age appropriate playgrounds to visit. The playground information is able to be added to by anyone to extend the playground data in a useful way for the community benefit. It features:

• Playground descriptions, editable by anyone, which detail park and playground facilities and equipment
• 5 Star Community Rating
• Age appropriateness
• Picnic areas and Off-leash dog parks within the park
• Brisbane Active Parks live feed for community events held in the park
• Map filtering of playground features
• Community discussions for each playground
• Easy reporting issues to the council

Accessing this site on any phone with a mobile browser will give you a very different view. It is designed to be used on the road, using location services to find the top 10 nearest playgrounds, and gives minimal details to reduce mobile data usage.

PlaygroundCommunity on Windows Phone

The competition ended very successfully with 54 Entries, many very nice, submitted by 18th May 2012. For $20,000 (2 x $10,000 prizes) the council certainly got its money worth for the development done. There are now a bunch of Web Sites, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone apps promoting Brisbane and making more of it known to its residents and visitors. All the entries can be checked out on the hack::Brisbane entries page, including my entry. The winner is to be announced by 22nd June.

PlaygroundCommunity Entry

I didn’t get to include all I wanted to, as often happens with a hard deadline, but I am happy with what I did. In doing this project I took the opportunity to skill up a little on JavaScript and ASP.NET MVC. I tried out Visual Studio 11 Beta and therefore MVC 4.0 and made use of TFS Preview, Microsoft hosted TFS on Windows Azure, and SQL Server 2008 Spatial functions. All of which I intend to share my experiences with.

Publish Apps and Get a Nokia Lumia

I had been wanting to create Windows Phone apps for about 6 months now but had been continuing to put it off. When Dave Glover announced the challenge, it was the kick I needed. Publish 3 or 4 apps and receive a Nokia Lumia 710 or 800. Working almost every night, from early January, this is what I achieved:

Memory Speed

This is NOT a standard game of Memory. Once a pair is matched, it will flip back over if you do not find all the others quick enough. This game comes complete with 3 difficulty levels with up to 21 pairs to match. You must match all pairs within the Matched Pair Timeout. If a matched pair flips back over you can simply match it again, and it will be another matched pair timeout interval for that pair. If you are not quick enough, you’ll end up spending all your time rematching pairs you have already found. Game high scores and statistics are recorded to ensure you always have a goal to beat.

1 of 5 2 of 5 3 of 5

Maths Defender

There are incoming bombs falling towards the city. The only way to stop them destroying the buildings is to denote them with the code. The code is the answer to a maths equation. This game comes complete with individual operator (+, -, x, ÷) or all options, adjustable number range from 0 to 100 and 3 speed settings to challenge everyone

1 of 6 2 of 6 5 of 6

Count With Me

Keep the little ones entertained while they learn to count. Tap each object to highlight the numbers as you count. Select the right number and they objects will fly off as the count goes up. It features many different objects from robots to trees to cars and bright varying backgrounds.

1 of 6 2 of 6 6 of 6

Color Bubble

Help the kids learn their colors by popping bubbles. The player is given a colored instruction of which color bubble to pop. The bubbles then bounce around while they try and pop only the specified color. If they hit the wrong color it just bounces the bubble around more.

1 of 5 2 of 5  3 of 5

I wanted applications that would engage the brain in some way. I’ve never been interested in writing games and never done it before, but taking the approach for educational games that will be also entertaining for my three boys (3, 2 and 1/2) became very fun. I would draw the concept on the white board and then my eldest boy would watch as the development progressed and the game came to life. And he really enjoyed them.

Having developed back in 2004 for the Pocket PC I wanted to see how far the development tools had come. I thought they were really good back then and what I have found is that the experience is even more seamless. Considering I have now published 4 apps on the store without ever running them on a physical device should give a good testament to the development environment. Not to mention 4 games in a few hours a night over 2 months, never having done games development before. A far cry from my first horrible experience in 2008 in the Android Development environment. However, I assume it has progressed and would now love to port these apps over to it now.

Unfortunately, my last app was published on the 04/03/2012, two thirds through the competition and by half way through the limit of 50 entries had already been received. So I missed out on a phone. A big thank you to Dave Glover for organizing the challenge and really engaging the Australia development community. So much so that he currently has another competition running for the most download app. Unfortunately, I’m fresh out of ideas, especially ones that would appeal to the masses of Windows Phone users. Although, I still do need a Windows Phone to be able to have my boys play them whenever we are out, and they need to be distracted.

TFS Working On Wins!

My entry to the Coolest Team System Gadget Contest has been announced the winner! Many thanks to Mike Azocar for hosting the competition and the judges Martin Woodward and Ed Blankenship.

Version 1.1 is hopefully not too far away with many features and improvements slated. You can currently get an early installer of it from CodePlex which contains a User Activity Timeout feature. This automatically stops recording time when you get pulled away from your desk, and starts up again when you are back.

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DevSta Entry – Mobile Memory Speed

Recently, I entered the DevSta {Challenge 2008}. The Challenge Brief was release at 0808 EST on Monday 29 September. This was the start of 200 hours and 8 minutes to develop a Windows Client, Mobile or Silverlight application or a Vista Gadget based on the theme Old School / New Cool. Not only was the time very limited, since I do work full time and have a 3 month old son, but thinking of an idea to fit the theme, that would be exciting and able to be completed in time, was difficult. Asking many people the only responses for ideas I got, was games. That is fine, and there were some good suggestions, but the time constraints meant I would never get these finished.

My idea ended up being the simple game of Memory on a Windows Mobile device. The "new cool", was to make it Speed, in which matched pairs would turn back over after a time out. Not a very cool idea I understand, but it is additive to play nonetheless. Below is the description of my submission:

Mobile Memory Speed brings the classic ‘old school’ card game Memory to the Windows Mobile Platform with a new twist. As you match the pairs, if you don’t finish quick enough, the pairs will start to flip back. This game comes complete with Difficulty options up to 40 pairs, which is enough to challenge anybody. Game high scores and statistics are also recorded to ensure you have a goal to beat.


I was able to complete the application within 10 hours and am very happy with the result. It feels like a completed product, although I have had many more suggestions for features to mix up the game further. The winners have been announced and unfortunately my entry is not among them. All in all it was a good experience putting something together so quickly. It has given me more motivation to just get in there and write more applications. Thanks also to Microsoft, the sponsors, the judges and the guys that organised the competition, and congratulations to the winners! I look forward to participating next year. Until then, I have made an installer for Mobile Memory Speed if you would like to give it a go. Note that the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework 3.5 is required.|_Setup.CAB

Team System Gadget Contest – TFS Working On

Since mid June, Mike Azocar has been running a team system gadget contest. Leaving it right up to the last minute, I have just submitted my entry, TFS Working On.

TFS Working is a simple system tray utility that makes it easier to record your time spent on TFS Work Items.

Immediately after installing, TFS Working On is ready to help you track your time. Simple specify your server and project, then search for your Work Item and you are tracking your time.

This will record your time in the history of the work item whenever you stop working on the item.

You can also specify your estimates against a work item so that you can record how you are going.

With some very simple configuration the estimates can be mapped to the TFS Work Item fields, per work item type, per project. This can be performed by one member of the team, most likely the one responsible for setting up the project, and then stored on the network share for all team members to reference.

This will now allow the estimates to automatically update the work item fields, making it easier to record time spent to help with TFS reporting and evidence based scheduling.

I will be putting the code up soon on CodePlex. This is just version 1, and I have many features I wish to add.

  • Activity monitoring – automatically stop recording when computer is inactive for given period of time.
  • Visual Studio integration – possibly to the extent that you cannot check out code for editing if you have not specified the work item you are working. This is for very strict scheduling scenarios.
  • Check that you are the assigned user for the selected work item
  • Bluetooth device linking – link to a Bluetooth device, like a phone, so that when you walk away recording stops (already got the code for this 🙂 )
  • Mapping Start and Finish dates
  • Possibly allow working on multiple items at once

Update: Project now on CodePlex:

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Demos Happen Here – State Finals

Last night I was fortunate enough to participate in the Queensland State Finals for the Demos Happen {Here} competition. Congratulations to David Apelt who did an excellent demo and will be representing Queensland at the national finals at Tech Ed in Sydney. I would also like to thank Andrew Coates and Roger Lawrence for running the competition and hosting the night.

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Demos Happen Here

Queensland VSTS User Group ran it’s demo fest last Friday. I participated. Here is my demo’s abstract:

Taking Command of Visual Studio

Visual Studio 2008 has become one very sharp tool. With all tools learning how and when to use it correctly can make life easier. In this demo I will be showing you how to increase efficiency and maximize productivity by utilizing Visual Studio 2008. I will be covering Tips & Tricks around File Management, Navigation, using the Editor, Debugging and Customisation. This will include a vast array of short cut keys which are worth learning and commands you didn’t know existed that will save you time. Going further onto customisation I will demonstrate Visual Studio Extensibility (VSX) with Microsoft PowerCommands for Visual Studio 2008 and other very useful extensions.

Below is the video that was taken on the day. This is also available from the Demo’s Happen Here site.

I’ve talked about PowerCommands before, and here is where to get RockScroll.

Anthony posted the results of the mornings sessions. Of course I was a little disappointed to be one point behind winning. But the result is also encouraging and I did have a lot of fun. I hope to do some more presentations soon at some upcoming user groups.

Thank you to Anthony Borton for putting the morning together, and use of his laptop for my presentation. Thank you to John O’Brien for recording the video.

Vista Sidebar Gadget Competition

Recently I entered a Gadget Competition hosted by MSOZACADEMIC and Si-Mi. The competition was announced on the MSOZACADEMIC blog and on the MSDN Flash. I do subscribe to the Flash but I did not see this competition during my skim of the newsletter. Fortunately, my work mate highlighted this for me. I thought it would be a good way for me to try out Sidebar Gadget programming and motivation to actually finish a home project. The competition closed at 23.59pm 31st October 2007 and to my surprise I had completely finished and upload my gadget  a whole 4 days ahead of the closing date. To my delight my Auto Lock gadget was name Judges Choice. In the post Nick Ellery mentioned that he had seen a tutorial on this before. My prizes arrived today, so I thought it was about time to detail how I put together the gadget.

The tutorial that I was inspired by was on the MSDN Coding4Fun blog. The post was Bluetooth Screen Lock and demonstrated the use of the managed wrappers for the Coding4Fun Developer Toolkit which was still in Beta. This gave me a huge base to start off. I pulled open the toolkit and extracted just the relevant Bluetooth communications wrapper. Guided by the Bluetooth Screen Lock code, I then built a single .NET DLL exposing just the functions required to communicated to Bluetooth devices and Lock the computer. Then came what I thought would be the simpler task. Build an interface as a Vista Sidebar gadget and call the functions. Building the interface was fine, but calling the functions wasn’t so straight forward. Two steps are required to make this happen.

First, the DLL must be made COM visible. This enables the use of the DLL as an ActiveX object and is easily used from JavaScript in the gadget. This part is simply done by adding the ProgId attribute to your class which contains the public methods.

public class AutoLock

Second, the DLL must be registered before it can be used. This can be done by using regasm, but being a Vista Gadget, there is no installation to do this at it is just an unzipping of the files to the gadget directory. After a searching for a solution I came across a post by Jonathan Abbott, Using ActiveX DLL’s in Gadgets. This very nicely explains what needs to be done to automatically to register a DLL on the gadget start up, and also be a good citizen and remove the registration when closing the gadget. I cleaned up the code a bit, removing global variables and contained it all into it’s own file, RegisterActiveX.js. One thing the code was missing was the declaration of oShell, which is, var oShell = new ActiveXObject("WScript.Shell");. With further refactoring this could be made into a object oriented JavaScript file. Armed with RegisterActiveX.js I can easily write any .NET code for use within a Sidebar Gadget.

A little bit more tinkering and the JavaScript for the program control is put together seamlessly accessing the .NET DLL from a Vista Sidebar Gadget.

Now to go play with the new toys.

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