Windows Phone 7 – My first app

As I unfortunately could not be at Mix 10 this year, I had to be content watching the Keynote from their live stream (which BTW worked flawlessly). Scott Guthrie as usual was outstanding and fun. And while showing off the new Windows Phone 7 developer tools went ahead and created a simple Twitter app on stage in about 5 minutes.

Well, I went ahead and downloaded the tools and installed them. Since I already had VS 2010 RC on my machine, it didn’t need to download the Express edition. It did install a bunch of other things and finally once done I went ahead and started it up.

So here’s how I beat ScottGu at his own game. I build a simple Twitter app for the Windows Phone 7 in even lesser time than him.

I created a Windows Phone application from the new project templates provided.WP7-01

Next, I changed some text around for the page and title. I also dropped in a TextBox, Button and a WebBrower control into the ContentGrid area on the phone.

WP7-02

WP7-03 I then simply added an event handler for the button’s click, like so:

webBrowser1.Navigate(new Uri("http://twitter.com/" + textBox1.Text));

That’s it. I then simply ran the application which started up the Windows Phone 7 emulator and deployed the application within it. Here’s what it looks like running.

The emulator doesn’t really have too many things in it other than Internet Explorer and some settings pages. You can of course go ahead and use the emulator to test out apps you create with Visual Studio 2010 or XNA Studio 4.0.

Here to creating great apps on Windows Phone 7. Have fun!


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Categories: Development | Gadgets | Microsoft | Rave | SilverLight | Windows Phone

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Using OpenType Font Features in Word 2010

We normally use what are called TrueType fonts on Windows machines for everything – whether in applications or when typing a document in Word. However, Windows Vista and above have had a new type of font system called OpenType.

OpenType is a scalable font format, built to be compatible with TrueType, but having many advanced typographic features like:

  • Ligatures
  • Numeric styling
  • Fraction Styling
  • Glyphs
  • Style “sets”
  • Contextual Alternates

You can read about the full specification of features here. However, the strange part has been that you couldn’t use the OpenType features in your Word documents… That is, till now. Word 2010 does have the ability to use the OpenType features in any document.

To do this, you will need to use an OpenType font. Some of these are Calibri, Cambria and the other “C”-fonts. But to really see the power of OpenType you need to use Gabriola. This is a script like font that has a number of cool features to it. Open Word 2010, change the font to Gabriola and add some text to the document. At first glance, the text looks pretty normal.

f1

Select the text and press <Ctrl>-D to enter the font properties dialog. Click on the Advanced tab to reach the OpenType settings. The easiest way to see the changes is to change the “Stylistic sets” value. Change it to say “5” for now and see what happens:

f2

You can now see that there are some nice effects starting to show up. Crank up the value to say 7.

f3

The text effects become even more pronounced. You can also experiment with the other settings to see other features of the font. For instance, the Number forms for “Lining” and “OldStyle” change how numbers are shown like this:

f4

f5The Contextual Alternates allow you to let characters change according to their relative position to other characters around them. Take a look at the “D” in the word “different” being typed below:

As you can see, the way that the character “d” is drawn changes each time surrounding characters change. You can turn this off or on if you want.

There are a ton of other features available in OpenType fonts as well and combinations of the settings can help you create extremely rich looking typography.

Do try out the OpenType features and with different fonts to see the effect of all the different settings you can do on them. You can add a ton of richness to your documents this way.

Here’s a small tip: If you’re using Outlook 2010, you can use these features when creating a new mail as well! f6


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Categories: Office | Rave | Tips

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WebsiteSpark and What It Means

Yesterday Microsoft made an announcement that has extremely important implications if you are into Web application development. The WebsiteSpark program offers a ton of Microsoft software for free for web developers and web development companies that qualify. You get all these software for 3 years for both development and production usage. The list of software is:

  • 3 licenses of Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition
  • 1 license of Expression Studio 3
  • 2 licenses of Expression Web 3
  • 4 processor licenses of Windows Web Server 2008 R2
  • 4 processor licenses of SQL Server 2008 Web Edition
  • DotNetPanel control panel

You can read more about the program on Scott Guthrie’s blog post and at the main site.

What I want to explore in this post is what it means for Web development in general. Currently, there is a trend or impression that if you need to create a software for a SME, you need to use the LAMP stack to remain competitive cost-wise. While true to some extent, what you do lose out is in terms of productivity and time-to-market with tools such as VS2008 and the Expression suite. But the cost of entry to use these has often been a pitfall to getting individual Web developers or smaller Web project companies as well as for the SME.

With WebsiteSpark this so-called “advantage” of the LAMP stack goes for a toss. Not only do you get all the tools you need for free for developing projects for SME companies you also get a number of other additional options that help ease your development, such as:

  • The Web Application Toolkits: A set of pre-packaged templates, samples, source code, etc. that can be simply plugged into your site to extend it with some extra features.
  • The Web Platform Installer: Allows you to quickly set up a developer or even production machine with not just the base requirements but also a number of free Web Applications such as WordPress, Umbraco, SugarDRM, DotNetNuke, Moodle etc. by simply following the setup prompts. Take a look at the Web Application Gallery and see how easy it is to setup these without having to mess around with configuration files and database connection settings on Windows.

This basically means that setting up and using Windows as a platform for Web application development not only is easier and faster but also is now available for free! You can also run most of the open source Web apps on Windows with better performance and scalability. So is there any real reason to still go for the LAMP stack? Try the above stuff out and then decide.


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Categories: ASP.NET | Development | Internet | Microsoft | Rave

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PowerPoint 2010 Broadcast Feature

One of the cool new features of PowerPoint 2010 is the ability for you to broadcast your presentation over the Internet for remote or networked viewers. This allows you to show presentations even if there is no projector available.

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Categories: Office | Tips | Rave

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Windows 7 RTM – Smooth Install from USB Drive

Once it finally hit MSDN Subscriptions, I downloaded Windows 7 and went around installing it. One of the things I did differently this time is that instead of burning the ISO to a DVD and then booting my machine off it, I created a USB drive based install following these steps:

  1. Plug in your USB drive (thumb, hard disk, etc.). Must be >= 4GB in size
  2. Open a Command Prompt with Admin rights and run the following commands:
    • DISKPART
    • list disk [This will show a list of disks attached to your system. Note the # for the USB drive]
    • select disk # [where # is the number of the USB drive selected above]
    • clean
    • create partition primary
    • active
    • format fs=ntfs quick
    • assign
    • exit
  3. Now mount your ISO or open it with WinRAR and copy all the contents from it to the new drive partition
  4. Use the USB to boot your machine (if your BIOS supports it) and start the installation

On my 3 year old notebook, the complete installation off the USB drive took just about 18 minutes from start to finish. I highly recommend that you use this technique to get up and running with Windows 7 fast.

Every single device on my machine was detected and drivers installed automatically. It also found the latest official nVidia drivers for my video card from Microsoft Update and downloaded them and installed too. I had a fully working machine in about 30 minutes and have started installing all the software I need. Kudos to the Windows team on getting this so right this time.


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Categories: Microsoft | Tips | Windows 7 | Rave

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Windows 7 – Released To Manufacturing

After a long wait and a couple of false positives, Windows 7 has finally hit RTM. Windows 7 is the biggest and most important release of Windows from Microsoft and has a huge number of new features – for users, IT administrators and developers – that allows maximum productivity.

I do know there are a lot of people out there who are still “happy” with Windows XP and hated Windows Vista (although I liked quite Vista since it ran well on my machine, till I worked with Windows 7). But this is the right time to start moving to the new OS. If your business is dependent upon technology (and whose isn’t these days), can you afford not to upgrade to the latest as soon as possible. I do realize that most corporates have a wait-and-watch policy towards any new technology, but you can wait till your competition upgrades and gains productivity while you still struggle along with an older technology. You can also read a nice post about this very thing here.

So when can you get your hands on Windows 7? Well, if you’re a MS partner, MSDN or Technet subscriber, you can get it as early as August 6! You can also read about the other dates of availability here. If you’re a consumer you can pick it off the shelves on October 22 (which itself has a digit-sum of 7 [2+2+1+0+2+0+0+9 = 1+6 = 7])!

Here’s looking forward to installing the RTM!


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Categories: Windows 7 | Rave

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Virtual Desktops on Windows 7

One of the things that I miss on Windows over Linux is the built-in ability to have multiple desktops. This is really useful feature that allows you to organize your application windows in different desktops for different types of work. For instance, you can go ahead and keep all your mail and IM windows on one desktop, your current work on another, your downloads on yet another and so on. The best part is that there are many programs for adding this feature to Windows as well.

I’ve been using a free application called VirtuaWin for many, many years now. It’s only recently after moving to Windows 7 M1 that I VWstopped as it did not support the new taskbar functionality yet and would give problems. The great news is that the latest release of VirtuaWin now finally supports Windows 7 as well!

I installed the VirtuaWin 4.1 Beta 2 on my Windows 7 RC machine. Not only does it recognize the new taskbar, it also works perfectly in it. The only issue you might have is the default settings to use the [Windows] key of your keyboard as hotkeys in the application. You will need to change this by going to the application’s icon in the notification area and selecting “Setup”.

Make sure that you modify each of the hotkeys to turn OFF the “Win” key option. This will enable you to use the hotkeys without conflicting with the built-in Windows 7 shortcuts.

If you like managing your windows even more than the defaults that you get in Windows 7, VirtuaWin is a great addition to your power user tools. Get it today to be able to add the ability of multiple desktops.


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Categories: Windows 7 | Tips | Rave

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Star Trek – The Review

Ok, I admit it – I was a skeptic about the choice of theme for the new Star Trek movie considering that it was to be based in the Original Series time frame and with new actors playing the iconic characters we know. How could someone else play Kirk, Spock, McCoy and all the others – each with their own distinctive personalities and styles of playing the character. I watched all the trailers and read all the reviews of how well the new Star Trek movie is doing – becoming the top grossing movie of 2009 so far, beating Wolverine, Angels & Demons and Terminator Salvation. I was still not convinced.

It was after I watched the movie that I realized I had been wrong – completely so. The movie was not just a great summer sci-fi action flick – it was Star Trek. As a full fledged Trekkie (see what I wore to the show – thanks Binesh), I loved the new movie. Here are some thoughts around it.

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Categories: Movies | Rave | Star Trek

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Windows Virtual PC 7 Rants & Raves

True to the name of my blog, here’s a list of rants and raves about the new Windows Virtual PC 7 that I’ve been using the past few days for some Windows 7 App Compat labs for ISVs.

What I Like:

  • Love that the install size of WVPC is only a little more than 5MB.
  • The new “Virtual Machines” magic folder is a cool way to organize all your VMs.
  • The USB support is a great feature – all devices that I threw at it (other than 1 set of devices being tested by a particular ISP manufactured by a Chinese company) worked!
  • The Desktop Integration mode is absolutely great – it even lets you see full Aero effects within the VPC. (However, also see next section.)
  • Networking just works!

What I Dislike:

  • Closing the VM doesn’t give me an option anymore to save or discard undo disk changes. I need to SHUTDOWN the VPC and then Apply or Discard it from the settings page. Ugh!
  • No drag-and-drop into or out of the VM.
  • Desktop Integration mode seems extremely flaky – at least with a Win7RC guest VM. It works sometimes, it doesn’t at other times. Not sure what are the steps to ensure this mode.

I can live with the first two issues – there are workarounds or a different way of doing the same stuff after all. But the last one is a pain – I just don’t know what is it that I’m doing or not doing to get it working.


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Categories: Windows 7 | Rant | Rave

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Blog Upgrade

I finally upgraded my blog with the latest version of BlogEngine.NET. This is a free, open source, implementation of an ASP.NET 2.0-3.5 blog. I was running v1.3 till now and have now upgraded to v1.5.07. There are a ton of new features in this release including new widgets, nested comments and more. I’ve implemented these features on the left column as you can see.

The theme that I use is called StarGazer created by Jason Lay. I’ve made massive modifications to this theme for my blog including:

  • Moving the right side column completely to the left using CSS. This is because I sometimes have code and images that flow across the page and in the case of a right side column would cause the layout to go for a toss.
  • Added the ability to use the first post as a Internet Explorer 8.0 WebSlice. This also requires a code change in the BlogEngine.NET core. I’ll be submitting this patch to the developers of BE soon.
  • Changed a bunch of ASPX layout to add the nested comments feature of v1.5 of BE.
  • Changed a huge bunch of CSS to get the styles correctly setup for different elements that didn’t even exist in the original theme but now appear due to structural changes in BE’s rendering.

For doing all this, it took me less than a couple of hours which included downloading, setting up and understanding the changes in BE1.5 on my local machine. I was greatly helped in the entire endeavor by Visual Studio 2008 and the Internet Explorer 8.0 Developer Toolbar. The latter was exceptionally useful in figuring out the classes and styles being used in any page and on the fly changing them to see what happens. Clearly a great tool to have for Web developers.

There are still some small changes that I need to do. The visitor info widget has a annoying icon that I want to get rid of and the Twitter widget doesn’t refresh automatically and the “Follow me” gives an error. I’ll need to look into this soon – but for now the blog is back up and running.

For anyone who is interested in the StarGazer theme, I’m putting it here to download:

UPDATE: I've now used a different Twitter widget called TwitterFeed. This allows a little more customization than the default one. Also, I made some changes in the styling by adding CSS classes for the date, feed and links shown in each Twitter.


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Categories: ASP.NET | Internet | Personal | Rave

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