Microsoft Student Hackathon 2015 in Oslo

On the 18th to the 19th of September, Microsoft Norway and myself are inviting students to attend a hackathon event at Microsoft’s headquarters at Lysaker Torg 45. It’s a tradition and I’ve participated a couple of times during my period at The Norwegian School of Information Technology now knows as Westerdals Oslo School of Arts, Communication and Technology (Westerdals ACT). It is quite the honor to be on the other side of the table this time and my good friend Anders Gill (Technical Evangelist) and I will kick things off with a thirty minute presentation each where we’ll be talking about Windows 10, Universal Windows Platform, Azure and the new Windows Bridge for Android and iOS.

For those into gaming there will be competitions in FIFA and Halo as well, so come on down on the 18th of September and join us in creating awesome new ideas, apps and websites!

Make sure to visit the post over at Channel9 where we have made a little promotional video or just watch it here and remember to sign up at this page.

 

Hope to see you there!

 

 

Windows 10 Continuum for Phones

Ever since I got to play with my dads Nokia 9210i Communicator back in the early 2000s I’ve always been searching for the mobile experience that could evolve upon request. That could be a small phone, but when you needed a little extra it could adapt. The 9210i Communicator was something like that and I’ve been searching for an upgraded experience ever since.

"Nokia 9210" by J-P Kärnä. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nokia_9210.jpg#/media/File:Nokia_9210.jpg
“Nokia 9210” by J-P Kärnä. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nokia_9210.jpg#/media/File:Nokia_9210.jpg

 

Upon this day I have been through phones running Windows Mobile (or was it PocketPC Phone Edition of some sort?) and the last phone I bought that was anything like the 9210i Communicator: Nokia N900. I loved the device. It had a full keyboard and ran Linux. I could use the package manager and download more hardcore software, and it had pretty much (at that time) every possible way of connecting to people, networks and devices. Eventually I had to switch it with something more modern that allowed me to run the apps I had started developing for Android.

Nokia N900. Look at that task switcher
Nokia N900. Look at that beautiful task switcher

The market had been quiet for quite some time, then Microsoft showed up with their Surface and Surface Pro tablets that ran Windows 8. The Pro being a fully fledged computer running on Intel chipsets, with full USB port and a 10,8″ multi-touch screen and add the Type or Touch Cover and you had a laptop. Finally I thought; now we’re getting somewhere. In fact, I own Surface, Surface Pro, Surface Pro 3 and a Surface 3 to this day. It has really come to be the type of device I’ve wanted for many years. It is a beautiful tablet that can evolve into a laptop (attach the keyboard) or a desktop (dock it) and the experience adapts for its usage.

WP_20150510_14_16_15_Pro

 

The Surface is a great step on the way for the experience that I’ve sought for all these years. It’s still not quite there, but Microsoft seems to be heading in that direction. At the Xamarin party the night before the Build 2015 conference started I talked with a Microsoft employee, and I got to talk about this concept with him. After I told him my story, he smiled and said “It’s not quite ready, but it will come”. I was intrigued.

The next day at the keynote Joe Belfiore showed us Continuum for Phones. Continuum is already known in Windows 10 as the feature that switches the Windows experience from PC mode to tablet mode and vice versa. Continuum for Phones will allow you to dock your phone or connect to a wired or wireless screen and it will adapt to become a desktop. The only downside with these phones today is that they run on ARM architecture and that means the only software you can run must be built for ARM.

Continuum-Windows-Phone
microsoft-windows-10-continuum-for-phones

 

Down the road Microsoft hopes that the majority of mainstream apps will be Universal Apps that run across the Windows 10 device family, but until that time there’s still a bunch of classic Win32 apps that one would want to run. At least that I would want to run. Until phones come with an Atom chip or some other x86/x64 chip there’s always Remote Desktop to the rescue.

With Windows 10 the phones have access to the same HID support so mice, keyboards and all the other USB peripherals will be able to work with it. Marvelous. When you connect your phone to a dock or a screen, you can still use your phone normally, so it will be like having dual-monitors where one screen is really tiny.

I am genuinely excited about this feature, and is a major step towards the experience I’ve been seeking. It’s still not quite there.

My hopes going forward is take the same concept and introduce a Surface Phone and bundle it with empty Surface tablet shells and other formfactors. Why empty? When we get there, it will no longer be necessary to bring your laptop or tablet with you. The phone is your PC, and you can dock your phone in to the Surface shell. The phone can adapt to become a touchpad if you want (imagine docking it where the touchpad would normally be) as we all know that the only ones that have great touchpads for laptops is Apple. The shell can contain extra batteries instead to increase the longevity of your session. There’s many possibilities, and I would love to one day just carry a phone with me. That’s at least the first step, then we can talk about more complex interfaces as we’re getting closer to realizing them.

The other company that has been making the same kind of progress is Ubuntu with their Ubuntu Phone, so if you’re a Linux user (as I once heavily was) then you should totally check that out. It’s exciting times that’s for sure!

0212_ubuntu_android_660

One last thing: Microsoft should drop the Continuum for Phones name and just go with Continuum. Please.

Surface 3 initial impressions (interrupted)

Surface 3 was released to the public here in Norway on Thursday (7/5/2015). I was lucky enough to get my hands on one for free the very day.

The largest online retailer of computer equipment Komplett.no held a contest in association with Microsoft Norway. Having been situated at home the last couple of days (under the weather), I told my girlfriend about this contest. Komplett.no would announce at the strike of 12, 15 and 18 three locations where the first person to see one holding the Surface 3 and “shouting” “I want a Surface 3” would get to take that Surface 3 along with a Type Cover home. Eagerly we sat around 12:00 and waited for the announcement, and one of the locations announced was pretty close, so my girlfriend put on her shoes and ran to try get a hold of one. When she was almost at the location I texted her that it had already been given away.

After that first attempt I thought the next announcements would be in different cities or in a galaxy far far away. When my girlfriend got home she handed me a large white shopping bag: “Here, I got something for you”. Turns out that she followed the 15:00 announcement and the location? Right outside where she works, so she immediately ran over and got it. So thank you darling for the effort, it was really nice of you!

Here's my girlfriend holding the Surface 3 and the new Type Cover
Here’s my girlfriend holding the Surface 3 and the new Type Cover

Enough with the mushy backstory already, let’s take a look at what we got here.

First Technical Preview of Windows 10 for Phones launched

Today Microsoft launched the first version of Windows 10 for Phones. This is a Technical Preview just like the desktop counterpart, and is only recommended for the hardcore enthusiasts that don’t mind to encounter bugs, crashes, weird behavior and unfinished work. I like to live on the bleeding edge of technology. If there is something new I can test then I want to test it out. Unfortunately, this first release is only intended for a small sub-set of Lumia devices in the low-end part of town. If you got one of these devices then you should be able to test out Windows 10 today:

  • Lumia 630
  • Lumia 635
  • Lumia 636
  • Lumia 638
  • Lumia 730
  • Lumia 830

That means I won’t be able to test it out quite yet, I posess a Lumia 520, 530, 1020 and 930, so you have to rely on other sources for videos, screenshots and “reviews” of the Technical Preview. If you want to see what’s new and what’s coming in the near future, take a look at this video feautring Joe Belfiore:

Why am I not getting this preview right now!?

Apparently our beloved high-end devices have very tight OS-partitions and no possibility at the moment to dynamically adjust the partitions, which as stated by Microsoft makes it hard to update the OS in-place:

“Some context on why we chose these and not higher end phones like the 930/Icon or 1520: We have a feature that will be coming soon called “partition stitching” which will allow us to adjust the OS partition dynamically to create room for the install process to be able to update the OS in-place. Until this comes in, we needed devices which were configured by mobile operators with sufficiently sized OS partitions to allow the in-place upgrade, and many of the bigger phones have very tight OS partitions.”

Check out the blog post announcing the release, and be sure to check out the known issues before you decide to install the Technical Preview on your phone!

Microsoft Blog: Announcing the first build of Windows 10 Technical Preview for Phones

DateTimeOffset: Preserving timezone information in Azure Mobile Services (.NET backend)

For the latest project at work we decided to try out Azure Mobile Services for our backend needs. It’s a simple one-controller backend that stores objects in DocumentDb storage and passes data along. If you haven’t checked out DocumentDb yet, it’s a NoSQL database-as-a-service from Microsoft, hosted in Azure.

The development went smooth, no real trouble and Visual Studio is really an amazing environment, but we stumbled upon one issue with DateTimeOffsets and timezones. When posting to our Web API we had a DateTimeOffset that included timezone information, but when it reached the Post-method in the controller it was converted to UTC automagically. This is something we would want if the data is being stored and passed back to clients which handles timezone conversion gracefully. In our case we want to preserve the date and time as is with the correct timezone as we’re passing this data along to other services such as sending text messages using Twilio.

To disable the conversion to UTC open up the WebApiConfig class and in the Register method add these three lines:

This configures the JSON serializer to preserve the timezone information (RoundtripKind), and that we explicity set IsoDateFormat (although this is default if I recall correctly, might just omit that), and the last one tells the JSON serializer to convert dates to DateTimeOffset. If you use DateTime then ignore this setting.

With these settings in place we preserve the data as is across the wire.

Want to learn C# and Windows (Phone) development?

The best inspiration for writing blog posts is absolutely the questions I receive from people via Facebook, Twitter, E-mail and more. For this particular post the question at hand was if I had any good resources for learning to code and develop applications in C#.

How one learn is different for each person. Someone needs to have hands-on tutoring, visual/audio-based material and of course reading. However; the only way to truly learn is by doing and practicing. If you are the one who needs hands-on tutoring then I might suggest you look up courses near you, as I can’t help you there. In this post I have tried to come up with some good video walkthroughs and reading material for each category, so continue reading to get to the good stuff.

Lumia 930 vs Lumia 1020 – Amateur Camera Showdown

The Lumia 930 has now been selling for some days and being so lucky I have both the Lumia 1020 and the 930 in my posession and I thought of doing an amateur camera showdown. A caution is to be made: I am in no way a photographer and the only setting I have adjusted on the phone is the focus points at some point, otherwise it has all been set to auto and recorded using Nokia Camera on both phones.

The difference between the Lumia 1020 and the Lumia 930 at this point is the Lumia Cyan firmware on the 930. They are both running the same version of the underlying operating system: Windows Phone 8.1 (8.10.12397.895).

Head past the break to see the initial results!

Lumia 930 – The “easy fix” for purple displays

After WMPoweruser posted their article about the Lumia 930s purple display issues going on record to say that there’s an easy fix to remedy the purple issue a lot of other tech sites has begun reporting the same fix. A lot of those sites are using the images I provided in the Lumia 930 – Purple Tint post as well. I don’t want everyone to think that this tint adjustment fix is going to fix your display as it still seems that for most users the purple is still present, but in a less noticeable way.

In the updated version of the Purple Tint post I go on to say that some users have experienced having the purple tint more visible in different parts of the screen (bottom, top, left or right). I have also noticed on my 930 device that when adjusting the tint to all Green I can see some of that green coming through in the gray areas. I have also noticed that on my device even when tinted all the way to Green the purple is still visible in the bottom half of my screen like many other users are reporting.

When taking all of these into account it might seem that it’s a hardware issue. Some users have already replaced their 930 with new devices and reports that the display is now fine. Microsoft and Nokia might release a software update in the near coming weeks to try to balance out the purple tint, but it might boil down to the physical hardware itself.

I reported these issue to Nokia Care when I wrote the other post and after some days I got sent a PDF that guarantees me a new replacement device when I hand in my current one, as it’s now marked as DOA (Dead On Arrival) / DAP (Dead After Purchase) with display errors stated as the reason.

I have yet to replace my current device as I am waiting to see what Microsoft and Nokia can figure out and allow the stores to stock up with new devices.

If you want to read more about what the purple tint issue is, head on over to my original post here

Spotted: Lumia 930 ad in Norway

Now that Nokias new flagship phone; the Lumia 930 is out it’s nice to see that Microsoft and Nokia has started marketing the phone here in Norway (by the way this Nokia/Microsoft business is confusing). Before I saw the ad today I had yet to see any special marketing for any of the other phones previously released. There might have been some advertisements earlier, but this time they have made sure that everybody would notice it

OneDrive ups its value; 15GB free for everyone, 1TB for Office365 subscribers

Microsoft announced earlier today that they are increasing the storage plans for everyone using OneDrive and lowering the cost of the storage plans of up to 70 %. That means for users of OneDrive they will be upgraded in the coming months to 15GB storage, a little more than doubling your storage space previously. This is for the regular free version, and  if you have paid for more space then you will continue to get that but at lower rates.

The OneDrive team reports that the monthly pricing of their storage plans have dropped, and is now priced the same as Google Drive, at $1.99 per month for 100GB of extra storage, and $3.99 per month for 200GB. This is great news for users. With prices equal to Google Drive and both having lower rates than Dropbox ($9.99 per month for 100GB), it’s a competition on who can deliver the best service for the same price.

This is not the only announcement they made today. Office365 subscribers will soon get 1TB of storage per subscription. For Office365 Home users ($9.99 a month) that means 1TB per person (up to 5 people). That is quite interesting, as the Office365 subscription includes access to the Office Suite and other perks as well, and for the prices ranging from $6.99 per month up to $9.99 per month (or $74.99 for 4 years in the University package) that is great value you’re getting.

If I were you, then I would certainly go for the Office365 subscriptions and get access to the Office suite which now is available on Windows, OS X, iOS, Windows Phone and Android, as well as 1TB of online storage.

Source: https://blog.onedrive.com/new-onedrive-storage-plans/