Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

If I can build a phone app anyone can: Controls, and more controls…

In this blog I create my project and have to learn the different controls I can choose from to build my app

As I continue my series on building my first phone app, I have chosen the Windows Phone application template and I am ready to start adding controls to my first page. If you missed any of the earlier posts in the series, you can access them here.

As I look at the Toolbox, I realize there are a lot of different controls to choose from, so in this post I’ll try to figure out what they do. There are so many controls I broke them into three groups for my quick description of each control just scroll down, I’ve also tried to hyperlink to documentation on the controls as I researched what each control is for.

Controls for entering and displaying data

  • Checkbox
  • ListBox
  • Map
  • PasswordBox
  • RadioButton
  • Slider
  • TextBlock
  • TextBox

Controls that do stuff

  • AdControl
  • Button
  • HyperlinkButton
  • MediaElement
  • WebBrowser

Controls to make things look pretty

  • Border
  • Canvas
  • Ellipse
  • Grid
  • Image
  • Rectangle
  • StackPanel

Controls for entering and displaying data

CheckBox

A Checkbox is a great way to let a user enter a Yes or No | True or False value. You’ll need to set the Content property to change the text that appears beside the textbox. The IsChecked property tells you whether the checkbox is checked or unchecked. There is also a IsThreeState property which allows you to have a checkbox represent something 3 different values like Yes/No/Unknown. IsChecked will be true if the checkbox is checked, false if the value is unchecked. If you enable the IsThreeState the unknown/undetermined state of the checkbox will return a value of Nothing for IsChecked.

imageListBox

Allows you to give the user a list of items to choose from. Specify the values to show in the list using the Items property, or I am sure you can set up data binding as well to read the data to display from some form of data source. This is the sort of list that takes up a lot of space on the screen, it’s not a drop down list. When you select one of the values it will be highlighted. I don’t see an option for allowing multiple selections, and it’s really hard to select the listbox after you create it, whenever I click on the listbox, it keeps selecting the Listbox items instead which is kind of annoying.

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Map

I guess you use maps to display data, data such as where you are, or where something is located! Looks like using this control is a bit more involved! There is all sorts of extra stuff they talk about like if you want to use a Bing Maps Silverlight Control you need a Bing Maps key which you get from the Bing Maps Account Center. I get the feeling the map control would be a blog unto itself! So for now I’ll just say, yes you can display a map and highlight locations on a map or directions on a map. I know the Where’s Timmy app from Tim Hortons has a map!

PasswordBox

This is like a text box where you can enter data, but no-one can see what you are typing, perfect for entering passwords! Instead a character appears on the screen. You can control what character appears with the PasswordChar property.

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RadioButton

Great to give a user selection between 2-5 choices on the screen and only one can be selected at a time. Use the Content property to change the text displayed beside the radio button. The IsChecked Property will tell you if a particular radio button is selected. When you add multiple radio buttons to a screen by default they all become part of one group, so as soon as you choose one radio button, all the others are deselected.

imageSlider

A slider is great for getting a user to choose a value in a range. You specify the highest and lowest values for the slider control with the Minimum and Maximum properties and then the Value property will tell you the value selected by the user.image

TextBlock

This is your label control for displaying text. You specify the text to display with the Text property.

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TextBox

This is your control for letting users type in data with the on screen keyboard, the Text property will tell you the value entered by the user or can be used to set a default value.

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Controls that do stuff

AdControl

This is the new control that came out which allows you to include advertising in your applications. Adding the control is pretty straightforward, drag and drop. You can set the height and width properties to resize it. But it takes more than just dropping the control on your form to get advertising working according to this site. You have to register your mobile app using Microsoft pubCenter and then you have to set the Application Id and Ad Unit ID properties in the ad control then you will have an ad enabled app in the marketplace to make money.

Button

Buttons are what you expect, buttons a user can tap to do something. You’ll want to set the Content property because that controls the text that appears on the button. At some point you will create Click event handlers for the button as well where you can write the code that makes stuff happen when a button is pressed. One thing I noticed about the button control on the phone is the buffer around it. It turns out this is deliberate so you don’t accidentally put buttons really close together and make it hard for someone with fat fingers to tap the right button.

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HyperlinkButton

Is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a button that looks and acts as a hyperlink. You will want to set the NavigateUri property to specify where to go when someone clicks it, and the Content property to change the text that appears for the button.

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MediaElement

This control lets you add audio or video. You specify the audio or video to play in the Source property. I found a little article here that describes how to use this control.

WebBrowser

This control could display HTML content you generate in your code if you want to get fancy, or you can use it to display content from a website specified by the Source property.

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Controls to make things look pretty

Border

Allows you to draw a pretty border around other controls on your form. You can set the properties you would expect like BorderThickness and BorderBrush to control the color and thickness of the line around the border, Background to change the background color within the border. CornerRadius is kind of cool so I can make rounded corners. Wow, I could make some really ugly apps with this. Check out my green and red border with rounded corners! Did I mention, I am not known for making elegant looking pages.

imageCanvas

According to MSDN: “A canvas defines an area within which you can explicitly position child objects by using coordinates relative to that area.” Okay then I guess I would use a canvas if I want to be able to move something around on the screen with my code. I guess I could make one of those annoying pages with a button that says “Click here to win one million dollars” and whenever you tap on it it moves. You can set the Background property to set the background color.

Ellipse

This just draws an ellipse on the screen. The Stroke property controls the color of the outline of your ellipse. StrokeThickness controls the width of the line. Fill controls the background colour of the ellipse. Weird how all the property names are different for Ellipse than they are for Border and Canvas eh? I made an ugly red and green ellipse to go with my ugly border.

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Grid

A grid is an area made up of columns and rows, so this would be great for displaying a table of data. You’ll need to go to the ColumnDefinitions property and add ColumnDefinitions for each column you want in the table. For each column you can specify a MinWidth and MaxWidth property. Then you need to go to the RowDefinitions Property to add a RowDefinition for each row. There is also a ShowGridLines property that controls whether you see the lines on the grid between columns and rows. You can then add controls in the different squares of the grid. Here’s my 3 row, 2 column grid with the grid lines displayed.

imageImage

Okay I know Images can be used to display data or to make things look pretty, I had to pick somewhere to put it! The image control allows you to display images. Use the Source property to specify the image to display. If your images aren’t the same size as your image control, play around with the Stretch property to control whether it clips, or resizes the image for you. It looks like JPEG and PNG formats are supported

imageRectangle

This just draws a rectangle on the screen. The Stroke property controls the color of the outline of your rectangle. StrokeThickness controls the width of the line. Fill controls the background colour of the ellipse. Weird how all the property names are different for Ellipse than they are for Border and Canvas eh? I decided to go with blue and green for my rectangle Smile

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ScrollViewer

The ScrollViewer lets you create a scrollable area, great for letting users read large amounts of text that might not fit on the scree, the user can then scroll to see all the content. It can have a horizontal or vertical scroll bar which you control with the HorizontalScrollBarVisibility and the VerticalScrollBarVisibility properties. Now what’s interesting is when I did a little searching I found a few articles that said you need to use Blend to create a ScrollViewer, those were pre 7.5, but when I tried to dig into 7.5/Mango I found comments about performance improvements so maybe you still need to use Blend to create this, still not sure. I could see this control being very useful though!

StackPanel

A StackPanel lets you nicely line up child controls horizontally or vertically, for example you could make sure all your radio buttons are nicely lined up. I like this one, easy to use and helps me make my form look much cleaner!

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Do you hate SharePoint? Part 1 of 4

If the answer is yes, could your hatred be caused by your local implementation? In this blog series we look at four common problems with SharePoint implementations and how you can address them.

SharePoint is one of those tools where the line blurs between the developer and the administrator, much like SQL Server and much like SQL Server, SharePoint is everywhere! So even though this post is not about coding for SharePoint, I thought it had some great information that many of us could use when dealing with SharePoint implementations, either as a developer supporting an implementation, or even as an end user (did I mention I use SharePoint at work? Hey boss, you reading this?).  A huge thank you to Neil McIsaac, SharePoint trainer extraordinaire, (bio at the end of the blog) for putting this together. Happy reading!

SharePoint is an interesting platform and as it grows as a product and with its already incredible adoption, it is an important cornerstone for many organizations. But ask the people that work with it, and you will find a divided love it or hate it passion for the product.

Why hate it?

It’s my experience (which dates back to the site server/dashboard days), that many customers have difficulty handling the product and I mean this a number of ways. Here’s the issue:

SharePoint will amplify your problems.

So why do we hate it? I would hate anything that made my problems larger. But did SharePoint create the problem? That would be like blaming the carpenters hammer for building a crooked house. The problems are our own doing in the majority of cases. In my experience, the most common problem SharePoint seems to amplify are the following;

  1. Information Management
  2. Project Management
  3. Information Security
  4. Business Intelligence

Without a doubt, this is not a definitive list of problem areas, but from my experience, these are the key ones that help make or break your experience with SharePoint. So let’s take a look at them.

1. Information Management

In my mind, this is the biggest problem area and by a considerable margin. Why? Well, if you think about information management, it really encompasses all of the other areas. It is a really broad topic. What is surprising is as an industry whose core revolves around titles such as Information Management and Information Technology; you would think that we’d be better at it. Let’s look at an example: The shared documents library within the default team site is fairly widely used by organizations. At face value it seems like a perfect solution for the sharing of documents. After all, it is called the ‘shared documents’ library.

When I was a kid, I remember going to the library. I am talking about the real one that had shelves and shelves of books that you couldn’t carry around in your pocket. I won’t refer to those times as ‘the good old days’ because they simply weren’t. What fascinated me was the organization. I had the power as a kid, to walk in to the library and find various books on a topic that interested me, and to browse some additional information about each book before ever finding the book on the shelf. You might be thinking that I am referring to the ability to sit down in front of a computer and search, but I’m older than that. I’m referring to the cataloguing system called the Dewey Decimal system.

That’s right, no computers. Yet I could search amongst a huge amount of material systematically and rapidly (for the times). 135 years later, and I’m watching organizations fumble with taxonomy and metadata like new borns driving a car.

So what’s the problem?

If we look at the shared documents library like a real library and a document like a book, if you let your employees simply start saving their document in the library it becomes almost the equivalent of having a library where you open up the front door, and chuck your book into the building. Imagine trying to find that book a week later. For the first hundred books or so, you might be ok, but what about the first thousand? Every time you see the default shared documents library being used, you should picture a real library, with nothing more than a mound of books in the middle of the room and people frantically trying to find things in the pile. The first thing that might come to many peoples mind is that "Well that is what we have Search for!" No we don’t. Well, not exactly. Search doesn’t organize our data for us; it makes the retrieval faster in larger systems. If you don’t believe me, do an internet search for a topic such as Shakespeare and tell me what the most current and correct material is on the subject. So how do we go from a pile of books on the floor, to nicely organized books on the proper shelves? The answer is 2/3rds metadata, and 1/3rd taxonomy.

Metadata is data that describes data. In the case of the Dewey Decimal system, that data helped to organize books into categories such as fiction or non-fiction, and provide additional tags such as animals, psychology, religion etc. so that you could much more easily identify basic keywords that described the material. In the library system, that information is collected, identified, and then recorded when the book is first brought into the library so that the material can be properly placed as well as be identified within a cataloguing system to be more easily retrieved. Do your SharePoint libraries behave like that?

Taxonomy is the organization of metadata. In the example of the library, who determined that fiction and non-fiction should be one of the primary organizational metadata to categorize books? Why not hard cover and soft cover? Within your own organization, the determination of metadata and the taxonomy surrounding it is purely yours. It needs to reflect your organizational goals, which is why companies like Microsoft can’t exactly make that an out of the box feature. YOU have to address it, and unless you like sorting through a million books, you need to address it yesterday.

If you haven’t already addressed it, let me help you with a few tips.

Focus on process

Data is a byproduct of process. Data simply wouldn’t exist if it didn’t have somewhere to go or something to be done to it. Knowing and understanding the key processes in your organization is a must. What can be more difficult is the identification of key areas where your processes will likely change, or where you would like to change in the future. The reason we need to identify this as best as we can is so that we can better lay the ground work now. In other words, after we know what the current process is, we need to ask "What is likely to change? What additional information might be needed to identify problems or opportunities that we could leverage to further improve the process?" As an example, if we examine a simple project management site where we record change requests and have their statuses updated, could you easily identify the total amount of time it took to go from request to resolution? Could I easily identify the chain of events that happened after receiving a change request? And is either of those 2 details important to me or will be important to me in the future? Questions such as those will help take you beyond simply recording a change request and marking it as ‘resolved’. Better metadata = better taxonomy = better processes.

Have Multiple Taxonomies

Taxonomy is fairly simple in concept in that it is leveraged metadata. I think I’ve already established the importance of having some type of taxonomy. Although what I am about to say is really two versions of the same thing, for the sake of the SharePoint argument I am going to separate the taxonomies into 2 types; Navigational taxonomies and categorical taxonomies. The reason for the separation is so they can be planned according to their primary usage in that users are either finding the data they need, or working with the data to make decisions. By focusing on their usage, we can hopefully make a better taxonomy.

With navigational taxonomies our focus should be on the Use Cases that you have established for the project. By focusing on what people do with the site, we can streamline their access to their data. You won’t be able to establish that unless you understand what people do with your site, and Use Cases are the best way to establish that.

You should also support more than one navigational taxonomy since there isn’t only one way to complete a task. The goal of the menu navigation should be task focused, so how do we add a second navigational taxonomy? By adding more menus? No. In SharePoint, we can add these extra navigational taxonomies through the introduction of a Site Directory focused site, and/or through the use of custom search pages and results. Both of these options are relatively easy to implement and will allow your users a second and or third way to find a location in your growing architecture.

Categorical taxonomy can be a bit harder to implement since it deals directly with content. We need to collect metadata on content to better describe it, but what should that metadata be? How should it be best structured? Great questions and the first answer lies within understanding the various processes surrounding your data. How it will be used, what decisions need to be made on it, etc. The metadata from this is typically well understood and most organizations have little trouble in establishing what the metadata is rather they have trouble in establishing how to best implement it within SharePoint.

Let me give you some tips in establishing categorical taxonomies;

Use Content Types

Content types are a way of establishing a common structure that can be shared amongst lists and libraries. Use them if you want to establish some consistency.

Use the Managed Metadata Service (MMS)

You can think of the MMS as a place to store the common vocabulary for your organization which can be used and shared in a number of ways. Another advantage is that you can disseminate the administration of the terms to the people that use them and not IT. Be aware that the MMS interface within the Document Information Panel is only supported within Office 2010.

Support Views

Views are a great way to change to look and organization of a list or library. They work by changing the display of the data, such as sort order, which columns are shown etc. Good views require good metadata.

Support Soft Metadata

Hard metadata is metadata that directly fulfills a business requirement. In other words, it really needs to be there and usually in a very structured way where we control the terms and their usage. Soft metadata on the other hand is metadata that doesn’t have a direct business relationship but can offer some insight to the content. A good example would be in the way that we tag photos. Quite often we will need some hard metadata such as the date that the photo was taken and the location, but we want to support soft metadata so that users are able to tag the photo with open terms, such as ‘wildlife’ or ‘Christmas Party’. But why do we want to support this? To which my answer is ‘Do we really want to turn away free information?’ Granted there is a minimal support cost to this. In the end, we have content that is simply more usable, and with any luck, could be leveraged one day, so I often tout that the support costs are minimal with a potential for much gain, so why not. SharePoint 2010 can implement this many ways including using keywords, and/or open MMS term stores.

Archive

This has been a thorn in my side almost wherever I go. We work in the information age and are so-called masters of information technologies, so why are we so bad at archiving strategies? A common dialog I often have with my clients goes something like this: "Our data retrieval is slow because we have a lot of it, over a million rows.", "Why do you have over a million rows in your table?", "We need to keep our data for X years.", "Did anyone say you need to keep it in the same storage medium as the daily production data?", "Ummm, no.". Archiving data does not have to be offline, it can be online and accessible, it simply has a different purpose than your live, day to day, data, most importantly it should be separated. Every time you create a new location where users can add content, whether it be a list, or a library, or a database, or a file share, you should ask yourself "How does this content retire?" and "When does it change its purpose?" After that, automate the process. Without an archival strategy you are setup for failure, you just don’t know when. By accumulating data over time, you cause the live, day to day, data to slowly become harder to use when it is left in the same storage medium. Retrieving data will be slow, and it will often get in the way of users trying to find the correct content while they are trying to accomplish their day to day tasks.

Next week Part 2. Project management…

NeilMcIssacNeil McIsaac (MCPD, MCITP, MCTS, MCSD, MCDBA, MCSE, MCSA, MCT) is an accomplished educator, consultant, and developer who specializes in enterprise application development and integration, application architecture, and business intelligence. As an instructor, Neil shares his knowledge and years of experience with students on a wide range of topics including SharePoint, BizTalk, SQL, .NET development, and PowerShell. He recently did an interview about SharePoint in the Cloud with .NET Rocks

Neil is an owner of BlueGreen Information Technologies Inc., and has over 18 years experience working in the IT industry in both the private and public sectors. His focus on large scale application development and integration keeps Neil involved almost exclusively with enterprise level companies. However, he also works in every level of government.

Neil lives in Moncton, New Brunswick Canada. In his spare time, Neil enjoys downhill skiing, golf and a new motorcycle.

This blog is also posted on the Canadian Developer Connection

Nero JSFiddled while Rome burned

If you haven’t found it yet and you are doing HTML, javaScript or CSS development, check out jsfiddle!

Sometimes you hear about a cool new HTML5 feature and you want to explore it, but you don’t want to go through the hassle of building and deploying a web page to do it. This is when I love JSFiddle. It’s a sandbox for web development!

Let’s start with something really simple.

Go to jsfiddle and in the HTML pane type

<h1>Hello World</h1>

Then hit the Run button

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Now you can see how your web page would look with that HTML in the Result pane!

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Then maybe you want to try out some CSS3 features, so you add a little CSS to the CSS pane, maybe the border radius for creating rounded rectangles

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If you want to try a little javaScript you can add that to the javaScript pane so you can even try out HTML5 features like Canvas!

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When you are done you can  share your code with others! Cool tools make it easier to explore!

This blog is also posted on Make Web Not War

Ask a Trainer: Free resources to help you learn SharePoint

FAST university has free webcasts on Enterprise Search and other SharePoint topics

At the MCT Summit in October, I had a chance to chat with Larry Kaye, a Microsoft Certified Trainer. Larry works with FAST University. I hadn’t heard of that organization before, so I asked Larry to fill me in on what they do. I’ll summarize the key offerings here, but if you don’t feel like reading, just watch my interview with Larry below (apologies for the camera shake, I am prone to that, I think I should get a tripod)

FAST University offers training and resources on SharePoint for administrators and developers. Although they cover other topics as well, they offer a lot of training on search features. They have classroom training, and just in case there are no classroom dates or locations convenient for you, they also offer virtual and e-learning courses.

If you register at their website, you can see a full list of the resources, and access a number of free webcasts! Including the following which I thought might be of interest to SharePoint developers:

  • Architecture of Search in SharePoint 2010 – learn the architecture of search in Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint.
  • Business Connectivity Services – Creating a .NET Connectivity Assembly in Visual Studio – learn how to connect SharePoint to external data sources such as SQL Server databases, SAP applications and Web services.
  • FAST Search for SharePoint 2010 – Property Extraction – Learn about the property extraction feature that identifies information such as person names, company names, and geographic names and locations in documents. These properties help you find the “who”, “what”,”when”, and “where” of each document.
  • Fast Search Server for Internet Sites (FSIS) with Content Transformation Services (CTS) – Learn about Content Transformation Services, how to build flows and sub-flows and tips and techniques for building flows in Visual Studio.
  • Search Reporting and Analytics with FAST Search Server – An introduction to Search Reporting and the Search administration tools.

Here’s Larry talking about FAST University and their courses.

This blog is also posted on the Canadian Solution Developer

If I can build a Phone App anyone Can – What project type to choose? Pivot? Panorama?

Part 4 in Susan’s series on building a Windows phone app from absolute scratch, in this post I figure out the differences between project types including pivot and panorama.

Did you miss part of the series? Check here!

Okay, I’ve installed the tools, I’ve done a Hello World application.l I want to start building my app now! So Go to Visual Studio 2010 | File | New Project and I see this…

CreateNewPhoneProject

There are 9 different project types just for Silverlight! (Quick aside: the XNA Game Studio 4.0 Phone projects are generally for games, and I am not going to try a game for my first app, but if you have played with XNA and are interested go for it and let me know how it goes, I’ve seen lots of cool windows phone games built by students!)

So which one should I use? Well I suppose I need to figure out the differences so here goes, I’ll dig through all the documentation and hopefully save you some time and effort doing the same.

Windows Phone Application

This creates a one page application. I checked and yes, you can add additional pages. You can’t get any simpler than this as a project type. So if your application is just going to be one or more screens and you will have the user navigate between them, this will work. Users will click on buttons or links to move between pages.

Windows Phone Databound Application

This creates a one page application, that has a listbox on the page and it implements the Model-View-ViewModel design pattern! Well that clears that up!  Okay what the heck does that mean for me…apparently its a way to separate your data from your user interface. So basically you write a class that says what data you want to show in the application (that’s the Model part), then you design a control that will show the data (that’s the View part), then you write code that says which bits of data display in which parts of your control (that’s the ViewModel part). Users will click on buttons or links to move between pages.

So I would choose this type of project if I was designing an app that was going to get data from some sort of source and was going to be displaying this data to the user. I think the Where’s Timmy app that finds you the nearest Tim Hortons is an example of a Windows Phone Databound application.

Windows Phone Class Library

If you are planning to build multiple phone applications, and you write a clever piece of code that you want to be able to re-use in more than one phone app, put it into a Windows Phone Class library.

If you aren’t sure, you can always do this later. I have two apps I want to build this year, both of them will have a timer that counts down, so there is a probably a way I can make the logic that counts down the timer re-usable. But for my first app, I’m not going to worry too much about re-usability, I just want to get it working, I’ll probably go back and rework it a bit to make the code re-usable when I build my second app. But if you are one of those programmers who likes to make everything re-usable right from the get go, you could add a Windows Phone Class Library to your application right away to hold the code you want to use in other apps.

Windows Phone Panorama Application

Gives you a project with a panorama control. Well that doesn’t help if I don’t know what a Panorama control is! Luckily I have a co-worker who wrote a blog post on the difference between panorama and pivot and here’s what I learned from that post.

Forgetting the phone for a second, a panorama picture is one of those long horizontal pictures like this

panoramapicture

On phones sometimes you scroll up and down, sometimes you scroll from left to right. Apparently they did research and figured out that it is more natural for our hands to scroll side to side instead of up and down (who knew!) Panorama applications are designed for sideways scrolling. When you do a panorama application you can make multiple pages appear on a single background. Users scroll side to side to see the different pages but the pages feel more integrated as you scroll across the content because you have a continuous background. It’s a really cool look and feel. You move from one page to the next as you scroll. It’s great for unstructured content, where you just want someone to explore by scrolling across to see what’s in the application. The red rectangle below gives you a sense of what the user sees on the screen. They can see just a fraction of the header and content for the second page so they can see that something is there and it encourages them to scroll and explore.

panoramapicture

The IMDb app is an example of a Panorama app.

Windows Phone Pivot Application

According to MSDN a pivot application is a phone that uses a Pivot Control (and if you look up redundant in the dictionary it says see redundant). So back to Paul’s blog on Pivot vs Panorama.

Pivot applications scroll left to right just like panorama applications, but Pivot applications are usually more structured and data driven. If you think your user will expect specific menu items to choose from in the application, go with pivot. For example, when I open a twitter application, as a user I want to be able to choose between viewing my twitter feed, my Direct messages, and tweets that mention my twitter handle. Each of those will display a different list of data on my screen.

Another difference between a pivot and panorama control is that you can see the title of the next page. The user can scroll to move pages or tap the menu item to move to the that page. For example, if I built an app for the winter Olympics, when they are looking at Today’s events they can see from the title bar that scrolling will take them to the medals, or they can tap the word medals to move to that page.

PivotControl

You can’t see any content from the medals until you move to that page.

PivotControlSecondScreen

The Globe and Mail is a pivot application, so is the email application built into the phone.

These rules are not absolute! There is no rule that says you can’t show structured data in a panorama app. Check out the Facebook app, they went with Panorama, Twitter went with Pivot. I recommend checking out different panorama and pivot apps and seeing which you think best suits your app.

Windows Phone Silverlight and XNA Application

This creates a project that allows you to use Silverlight and XNA in the same application. This is something that lots of people wanted and was added in 7.5/Mango. You can also go the XNA Game Studio 4.0 project types and pick the same template. You get the same template either way. This template will give you an application with two pages: one Silverlight, and one Silverlight that shows XNA content. You also get a button to go from the Silverlight to the XNA.

Gamers like to use this project type because they use XNA for their games, but Silverlight is great for things like listing high scores, or letting users choose between levels.

Don’t dismiss it for non gaming applications! if you want to add cool 3D graphics to your application you’ll need XNA for that. Check out the application built by British Airways, it’s a great example of how using XNA can add some Wow to a Silverlight application.

Windows Phone Audio Playback Agent

Want to play music in the background? Do you want the option of having the music keep playing if someone leaves the application?

Adding this project to your application will give your application access to the classes you need to play audio files in the background.

Windows Phone Audio Streaming Agent

This is the same as the Windows Phone Audio Playback agent except you use it for streaming audio files.

Adding this project to your application will give your application access to the classes you need to play streamed audio files in the background.

Windows Phone Scheduled Task Agent

Do you want to have a scheduled task running in the background? Do you want to periodically check if there are new blog entries? DO you want to refresh data on the phone when the user has a network connection instead of over the data plan?

Adding a windows phone scheduled task agent gives you access to the classes that allow you to schedule tasks to run in the background at a particular time or under particular conditions (such as when the user has a network connection).

Wow, did that blog ever take me a long time to write! But I feel a lot better about my understanding of the project types now and hopefully I saved you some time with the summary. There are really 4 base project types: Phone Application, Phone Databound Application, Panorama, and Pivot. My first app is going to be a timer so I’m starting with a Phone application next blog I can start coding my app!

Join me on my quest to publish an app, and remember you could get cool stuff if you publish an app in Canada by May 20th, 2012.

If I can build a phone app anyone can!

I can write code, but I always run into issues installing, testing, deploying, and dealing with nit-picky stuff. Everyone told me if you can code you can build a phone app, so I decided to put that to the test in this blog series.

I will update this blog post as I continue my adventures so you can follow the series, please join me on my adventure as I code and publish my first app!

Part 1 – Installing the tools

Part 2 – Writing Hello World

Part 3 – Tombstoning

Part 4 – Project Types (Pivot vs Panorama and more)

Part 5 – Controls and more Controls

Part 6 –  Displaying a numeric keypad and validting numeric values

Modernizr love – lets me use HTML5 on any browser

HTML5 is so awesome, but doesn’t work on all browsers, modernizr is the first step to supporting old browsers when you write HTML5 code

HTML5 really does rock, with so many great features like the <video> tag, <Audio> tag, new elements like <header>, <footer> and attributes to do cool validation on <input>. But Internet Explorer doesn’t support the same HTML5 features as Firefox. IE10 doesn’t support the same features as IE9. Older browsers don’t support HTML5 at all! Ironic that we have all these hassles with a language that is supposed to make coding for multiple browsers easier.

So where does that leave us, well in familiar territory really. You have to do feature detection so you can run different code for different browsers.

Feature, not browser detection! If you are still doing that, please stop now!!! More and more browsers keep coming out with more and more versions and variations, you are better off doing feature detection so you can just say “hey I want to use this feature,  and if this browser doesn’t support it, here is a backup plan.” Okay I’ll get off my anti-browser detection soapbox now.

You can write little JavaScript functions to check if a feature is supported, say for example you decide you want to check if canvas is supported, this would work:

function supports_canvas() {

return !!document.createElement(‘canvas’).getContext;

}

This little function will create a dummy canvas, then uses a getContext to see if it was created (which it wouldn’t be if the browser doesn’t support HTML5), so basically it returns True if the browser can create a canvas, and False if it can’t. Voila! You now have feature detection for canvas.

But I am wayyyyy to lazy to write a function like that for every single HTML5 feature I want to use, which is why I LOVE modernizr. They basically wrote an entire library of functions like that for me (thank you! thank you! thank you!)

Modernizr creates a global object called ..you guessed it… Modernizr that contains a set of boolean properties for each feature it can detect. So if we want to check if canvas is supported instead of writing our own function, we just check the boolean property

if (Modernizr.canvas) {

   //…do the cool canvas stuff

} else {

   //…do something else ‘cuz canvas won’t work

}

So if you are thinking of playing around in HTML5, step 1: go get Modernizr!

This blog post also appears on Make Web Not War

Facebook is fun with friends, but LinkedIn can help you get a job!

I know most of you are on Facebook. But I know a lot of us are still trying to figure out exactly how to use LinkedIn. I wanted to make sure you aren’t missing out on a tool that can help you find work opportunities.

Facebook is generally regarded as a tool for keeping in touch with friends near and far, it is also used by companies to share information about promotions and offers. LinkedIn is generally regarded as more business oriented. It has become a tool used by recruiters to find potential employees and a way for professionals to network with other professionals through groups and connections. I also get emails through LinkedIn asking me if I know anyone suitable to fill different job positions, or if I am interested in a specific opportunity.

I go to Facebook to make comments on my friends photos, I accept friend requests from people I have met over the years and former classmates.

I go to LinkedIn to share technical resources, to find out about technical events going on in the community, and to build my professional network. It is interesting how often I will be presenting a topic, and will walk around the room and spot someone perusing my Linked In Profile. Creating a Linked In account and setting up your profile is like creating an online resume. There’s a great blog that provides some stats and quotes about how employers use LinkedIn during the hiring process.

Here are ten tips to help you create a suitable LinkedIn profile in no particular order

  1. DO fill out the summary in your profile, treat it as a mini resume that highlights your skillset and experience, put detailed information about past job positions under experience
  2. DO select some core skills in the skills section
  3. If you are bilingual, DO consider creating your profile in both languages
  4. DO set your public profile URL so you can link to your online resume in emails when you apply to jobs or are introducing yourself to another professional
  5. DO keep the tone professional in all your status updates
  6. DO link to your blog if it is relevant to your professional skills.
  7. If you tweet, DO NOT automatically have all your tweets appear as linked in status updates, use a client that allows you to select which tweets go to linked in with a #li hashtag or some other optional selection
  8. DO try to get 3 recommendations from other people on LinkedIn to help you get a 100% profile
  9. DO start building your connections and network
  10. DO join technical and professional groups on LinkedIn to stay connected and informed (I recommend Canadian Developer ConnectionSmile )

New SQL Azure lab available (How to move data to SQL Azure)

SQL-Azure_rgbThe SQL Azure labs site is a great place to explore and play with SQL Azure! You are probably already using SQL Server and may be working with or wondering about SQL Azure. Often when I want to explore a technology, I find reading a blog post or MSDN article isn’t enough to make me comfortable. I need something more tangible to help me grasp a new tool or offering. The SQL Azure team provides a series of videos and labs to help you explore and master different SQL Azure technologies.

There are a number of labs on the SQL Azure site, but I just want to take a minute to point out one in particular that just went live this week.

The Microsoft Codename “Data Transfer” Lab provides an easy-to-use Web application for importing data into SQL Azure or Blob storage. Learn how to transfer structured data and files into Azure using any standard modern browser. One of the goals for this lab is to take the complexity out of typical operations, such as loading structured data in CSV and Excel files into SQL Azure. The lab service provides simple parsing, type discovery and conversion over files in a wizard-like experience.

This is a new lab, and the SQL Azure team wants to learn from you! They will use your feedback to shape the service in the future! So if you get a pop-up questionnaire please take the time to answer, you could identify a feature to include in the next release! You can also post on the SQL Azure Labs Support Forum to give feedback as well.