Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Of Eagles, Boy Scouts, and Windows Phone

Over the past few days, I have been helping my brother with his Eagle Scout project, which has been taking a lot of my writing time. As for me, I am already an Eagle Scout. As part of giving back to scouting more than that it has given me, I am working on a program (for Windows Phone) that any boy scout to use to track his progress to Eagle. It will be something like this: the first time the program is run, you get a "setup" screen which gets your birthday, name (name is optional), and religion (religion is also optional). Then, you are brought to the home screen (which is where the program will open every further time it is run), which shows your current rank and how long you have until your time runs out (since all requirements, except for the Eagle board of review, have to be completed before the 18th birthday), and you can go to a rank to look at requirements for it. I also plan to have little reminders for the boys (like for example, a reminder for scoutmaster conferences and board of review and a countdown to the 18th birthday if the scout hasn't gotten Eagle yet and is getting near the deadline). Besides having all the requirements, I will eventually have an add-on to it that will allow you to get any requirement for a merit badge. This way, you won't have to lug the merit badge requirements book with you, but you will still have to get the booklet for the individual merit badges (if needed at all). Any awards the scout might get, such as the totin chip and the Ad Altare Dei religious award (I am Roman Catholic), will also get an add-on. For the religious awards, I will have it filtered based on the religion you specified during setup (if you didn't choose it during setup, you will have the opportunity again to choose it here, or this section will be blank). All of this is designed to be mobile and not dependent on the internet, which will allow the boys to have something ready and available while "out in the field". Right now, it is still in the developing stages, but if you would like some snapshots of the program anyway, I will be happy to provide them.

I'm curious to hear what everyone thinks of this idea, so feel free to give me your thoughts via the comment box.

Update 6-3-11: Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class requirements are done, but no save capability yet for anything. The Home Screen is also semi-finished. Some screenshots will be coming later once I get a few more things with the program done.

Update 8-3-11: Version 1.0 of BSA Eagle Tracker has been released and is in the Windows Phone Marketplace. More details can be found here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Windows Phone Apphub Marketplace 2.0 is coming

At TechEd, everyone who came to the session on Windows Phone Marketplace learned about some details about some changes coming to the marketplace with the release of Mango. Well, developers rejoice, for some great changes are coming that will make program testing and distribution much easier.

The first change coming is that you will be able to have beta testers before you decide to publish your program to the marketplace. After setting up your program in marketplace as a beta, you then give out a link to all of your beta testers. Your testers can then use that link to download the "beta" version of your program to their phones without having to have the testers' phones developer-unlocked. All of your testers will need to have a windows live id to download your beta (but you need that for marketplace anyway). However, the beta version of your program is only good for 90 days, but you can put out a new beta version of your program which has that 90 day limit "reset". Plus, there is still nothing like a crash test tool that can collect system information about your program (aside from the debugger).

The next change is that you will be able to have privatized programs. With this, your program is hidden from any marketplace searching and only people who have the link to your program will be able to get it. However, if the link to your program gets leaked, there's not much that can be done about limiting the distribution of your program.

The third change coming is a welcome one for students. If you sign on to Dreamspark, you will no longer have to verify with Geotrust (Dreamspark will trust that you're a student) before you can developer-unlock your phone and start publishing programs to the marketplace. Before this change, you first had to submit a program to the marketplace, wait for Geotrust to verify you, and then be able to developer-unlock your phone and start publishing programs. With the advent of Mango (the next Windows Phone release), you will no longer have to wait. I hope this will be (somewhat of) an incentive to work on getting together a team to make a program for the Imagine Cup competition next year.

The last change is with publishing games. With Mango, there is now going to be a ratings system (standard ESRB) built-in to Marketplace. You will also be able to publish mature games to the marketplace now, which means we will finally be able to see mobile Halo make it into the marketplace soon for the enjoyment of many gamers out there.

With the advent of Mango and all of its wonderful changes, additions, and updates, I know that these changes to the marketplace will help to make the Apphub Marketplace grow and become better to use for everyone. I certainly welcome these changes and hope other developers and users out there will welcome these changes as well.

Questions? Comments? I would certainly like you hear your view on this. Feel free to follow me on twitter as well (username is "rctechgeek", link is in the "About Me" section).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Microsoft TechEd Conference Day 3

If there's one thing I've learned with TechEd, it is to always obey your alarm clock when it goes off in the morning. Anyway, some exciting things did happen. After looking at the list of sessions for the day, I figured that most of the day was best spent doing the hands-on labs the Microsoft had. Some of the most hardcore questions related to Windows Phone development were asked at session WPH374-INT, everything from multitasking and how to handle Windows Phone tombstoning properly to how to play swf and flv files. At around 16:45, AT&T held a scavenger hunt for TechEd participants, and I decided to partake in it. It was broken down into missions and every team got a set of missions they had to complete. I was team leader for my team, and a bunch of crazy stuff happened. Some examples included: getting a picture of a team member doing something outrageous and crazy, a drinking race (with beer), making a 20 second how-to video on a topic related to computers, an arm wrestling competition, and doing a little dance. Afterwards, AT&T had food and drinks for us, along with the viewing and voting of most of the pictures and videos that the teams made. It was about 22:00 when I finally made it back to the hotel, and after brushing my teeth and talking to mom and dad for a while, fell asleep without problems.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Microsoft TechEd Conference Day 2: part 1

Last night was a blast. After all the sessions at TechEd were done for the day, I, and many others, attended a Windows Phone 7 hackathon. The goal of this was to give attendees who were new to developing for Windows Phone a "training session" on how to develop programs, starting with the basics, and upload them to the marketplace. Unfortunately, I think I broke Marketplace when I tried to upload my first program for submission. I hope Microsoft can fix this problem as soon as possible so I can submit my programs. At the end, there was a contest for best program (due to time constraints, the program didn't have to be a finished product). I entered my BSA Eagle Tracker program, which (when finished) gives a boy scout working towards Eagle Scout a portable way to track their progress toward achieving Eagle Scout. In the end, I came in third place, losing to a program that shows information from a website about beer (first place) and a program that tracks a pregnant women's path to childbirth (second place). It was after midnight when I finally got back to the hotel.

Because I got back late, I ended up sleeping in late and missing the first round of sessions. Luckily, I was able to make it in time for one of the sessions in the second round I really wanted to attend, "Monty WiFion and the Quest for the Holy Grail of Network Security". In this session, I learned about some of the (wireless) technologies that have come along in recent years, how they can be compromised and hacked, and how to prevent and avoid attacks that may happen with those wireless technologies.

More is coming later, so stay tuned for more. If you were at the hack-a-thon last night, I would like to hear about your experience there (via the comment box) or if you have some other thoughts about TechEd (in general), I would like to hear about that too (in the comment box). While you are at it, consider following me on Twitter as well (Twitter username is "rctechgeek", link is on the side of the page in the "About me" section).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Microsoft TechEd Conference Day 1: part 2

Well, I got through the long keynote address and through some sessions. The big thing with the keynote, and the conference theme somewhat, is integration in the cloud with a multitude of devices, which may not always be running the same operating system. A strong emphasis was placed on Sharepoint as being a central place where workers can collaborate from anywhere. Office365 was included in the whole cloud computing topic as the future focus of Microsoft Office is headed in the direction of being able to work on your documents from your computer, your handheld device, or the web (with the advent of MS Office online).

With all this talk of the cloud and the cloud doing some of the processing that a computer might normally be forced to do, what would happen if multi-player gaming (any category and any genre) used the cloud for some of the processing. Would the internet connection be fast enough to handle it? Could the computer still render the necessary graphics and sound in a decent amount of time? I think that using the cloud to do some of the heavy lifting that a good graphics card for gaming usually does could result in bandwith issues (and as a result, ruin the experience for everyone playing). Maybe I'm wrong on this, but if someone has a solution to this that works, I'll take it.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to give me your 2 cents in the comments box

Microsoft TechEd Conference Day 1: part 1

As part of my Microsoft Student Insider job, I was asked to attend the Microsoft TechEd conference (on twitter, this is If you do not know what TechEd is, it is a conference geared towards I.T. professionals to learn how to use Microsoft technologies to their fullest potential in their respective businesses and to discuss the use of these technologies. The big theme this year seems to be collaboration and integration along with the cloud. There isn't a whole lot more I can say right now about it, as the just started, but I will be sending more information periodically during every day of the conference, so stay tuned for more.

Short Update: Office 365 integration and more cloud computing stuff will be coming to Mango, the next version of Windows Phone

Update #2 (10:34 EDT): Accelerometer simulation and location simulation during testing is coming to the next version of the Windows Phone SDK, due later this month

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Royal Wedding and Marriage in General

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks or cut off from the rest of the world, you probably heard about the royal wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton in England. We both know that the couple has spent loads of money on their wedding. There has been a lot of publicity regarding this wedding. This makes one wonder why so much money should be spent on a wedding and is it ever possible for one to have a simple wedding? With this in mind, everyone, especially those that are married, will take to heart one simple phrase which I learned from my parents when they did Engaged Encounter weekends when I was younger:


Granted, it varies culturally how much financial resource is acceptable to be spent on a wedding, but a wedding can be simple. All that is needed for the Sacrament of Marriage is a man, the groom, a woman, the bride, and a witness, which can be a deacon or priest. The man and the woman are the ministers of the sacrament and the deacon or priest is the witness. Nothing else is needed: no guests (although you should at least have family with you like the mother and father of the bride and groom), no organ, no fancy wedding dress for the bride or tuxedo for the groom (although a dress for the bride and a suit, at least, for the groom are preferred), none of that extra stuff. People complain that a wedding in the church is too expensive or they rush marriage too quickly, giving rise to things like outdoor weddings (which can be more expensive and who WOULDN'T want to get married in a church, before God) or Las Vegas-style weddings, done before a "Justice of the Peace" (where the State recognizes the "Marriage", but the marriage is still not valid in the eyes of God). Cultural feelings toward weddings force couples planning a wedding to spend more than they need, which can cause problems in a marriage later on.

As I said before, a Marriage is for a LIFETIME! In the marriage vows, the phrase "until death do us part" is there for a reason. When when the man and woman say this, they vow, before God, that they will stay together for ALL times, whether they be good times or bad times. Only when a spouse dies is the other spouse still living allowed to wed again and be married to another. This is because the wedding vows made before God have been fulfilled and you are no longer bound by them (although you can still follow them if you want). If William and Kate live out those vows for their lifetimes, that will be an example for which all that are married can follow.

I think the Media treats the sacrament of marriage as if it were a game and the rules of the game are governed by the government and based on one's feelings. It goes something like this: Famous Man is wed to Famous Woman, Media creates a lot of buzz about the wedding, Famous Man and Famous Woman are happy with their marriage for a while, Famous Man and Famous Woman have children, Media gets all excited, Something happens to either Famous Man or Famous Woman and marriage starts to falls apart, Media (which should stay out of this) "reports" on the marriage troubles, People start to gossip about it, Marriage falls apart and either Famous Man or Famous Woman files for divorce, Either Famous Man or Famous Woman start dating again while their divorced spouse is still alive, Famous Man or Famous Woman still dating decides to get married again while spouse is still alive, wash, rinse, repeat

Those preparing for marriage: don't rush things and make sure that the one you wish to marry is really "the One". If things are rushed, things are more likely to not work out in the marriage. Cohabitation is NOT AN OPTION (it's also a mortal sin), as it ruins things and makes the marriage more likely to fail. Married couples: please stick with your spouse no matter how bad it gets. If we are getting into issues like domestic violence and other like issues, that is a topic for another day. Two of the big parts of marriage are Faithfulness and Compromise. If a couple is faithful to each other, trust builds between the two of you and you can trust each other with more important matters. With compromise, both minds don't always think alike, so you will both be happy if you can find a middle ground and agree with each other. Always keep these two ideas in mind and they will help you to have a successful marriage.

Questions? Comments? Sound off Below!