Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

I’m a mobile developer (and author)!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Front Cover of Objective-C for the iPhone book by Christopher FairbairnYou might have noticed a few changes around here of late, including the renaming of this blog to /dev/mobile.

When I started blogging almost 3 years ago it was a way to contribute back to the community and share my passion for mobile development. I started with the community and platform I was most commercially involved with at the time – Windows Mobile.

However Windows Mobile was (and still is) only one of the many platforms I develop for. In fact as my bio hints next year will mark my 10th year developing mobile based applications and solutions! Windows Mobile, iPhone, Android and WebOS all didn’t exist back then. How time (and technology) flies…

For the last year or so I’ve wondered (similiar to others such as Joel Ivory Johnson) how to expand the scope of my blog to cover other platforms and technology stacks in which I’m invovled. I’m passionate about mobile development in general, and do a lot beside the visible Windows Mobile related content I post here.

Front Cover of Objective-C for the iPhone book by Christopher FairbairnThis came to a head in the last couple of months when I was asked by Manning to author an iPhone related programming book. How could I raise my visibility within the iPhone community and contribute content on a blog with “Windows Mobile” in the title?

In the end I decided to rebrand and re-organise the blog to enable me to introduce additional topics for which I’ve been keen to share.

To start my venture into blogging about iPhone related topics I have decided to create a 30 days of iPhone project. This will closely follow the existing 30 Days of Windows Mobile applications and will form a useful comparison between the two platforms (yes I am aware of AppsAmuck). Likewise I’m still committed to bloging about Windows Mobile, so at the same time I’m going to put in an concerted effort to blog about the existing Windows Mobile mobile based applications which are currently located within the codeplex based source code repository but haven’t been blogged about.

In the mean time please investigate my book “Objective-C for the iPhone” and consider purchasing a copy. It’s currently available via Manning’s MEAP (Early Access Programme), which means you can start to get chapters in PDF form during the editing process, before the final paper back book is published.

Your feedback on the book, becoming a first time author or how best to maintain a blog covering multiple technologies / interests would be greatly appreciated! One thing I haven’t fully worked out is how best to tag or categorise posts to allow filtering of iPhone or Windows Mobile specific content…

DNUG Meeting: How to Become an Exceptional DBA

Monday, October 12th, 2009
Photo of Brad BcGehee
Date: Wednesday October 21st 2009
Time: Gather at 5:30 pm, starting at 6:00 pm
Location: Room N510, CPIT, Madras Street
Presenter: Brad McGehee

Becoming a DBA doesn’t have to be just a job; it can be a very rewarding career. While many DBAs are happy with just getting by, the Exceptional DBA is not only outstanding in their knowledge of SQL Server, they are consummate professionals who are in high demand, and command high salaries.

In this session, Brad McGehee, Director of DBA Edution for Red Gate Software will focus on the following topics:

  • Why I Should Become an Exceptional DBA
  • Characteristics of the Exceptional DBA
  • Specialize: You Can’t Do It All
  • Hone Your Skill Set
  • Is Professional Certification Really Necessary
  • Participate in the SQL Server Community
  • Manage Your Career, Don’t Let it Manage You
  • Take Action Now

This should be a brilliant presentation, even if you’re not a DBA. I’m sure the content will be relevant no matter your role within IT. Up-skilling, staying relevant and in-demand is key to virtually everyone’s career.

Since this presentation is taking place at a different venue this month I’ve included a map outlining its location below.
Map of CPIT showing location of room N510
Room N510 can be found on the 5th floor of N-S block, best accessed by the entrance off the corner of Madras and St Asaph Street.

SQL Server MVP Deep Dives book – order your copy today!

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Cover of SQL Server MVP Deep Dives bookI’m a bit late to the game, but if you haven’t heard already you should investigate buying a book called SQL Server MVP Deep Dives that is about to be published by Manning. This book has contributions by 53 MVPs (mostly SQL Server based, although there are a few representing other specialties).

The book has over 60 short chapters on a wide range of SQL Server related topics. You’d be hard pressed to find another knowledge packed book written by some of the biggest names in the community.

All the authors donated their time and energy to this project. Even better all author royalties for the book are being donated to War Child International. So buying a copy is a great way to support a charity.

As the description on the Manning website states:

This is not an ordinary SQL Server Book. SQL Server MVP Deep Dives brings together the world’s most highly-regarded SQL Server experts to create a masterful collection of tips, techniques, and experience-driven best practices for SQL Server development and administration. These SQL Server MVPs—53 in all—each selected a topic of great interest to them, and in this unique book, they share their knowledge and passion with you.

I urge to to consider buying a copy, and when you do take a look at chapter 22 – “Placing SQL Server in your pocket” – which was written by me :-)

DNUG Meeting: nServiceBus

Monday, June 8th, 2009
Photo of Rob Hawthorne
Date: Wednesday June 10th 2009
Time: Gather at 5:30 pm, starting at 6:00 pm
Location: Canterbury Innovation Incubator
Presenter: Colin Basterfield and Bryn Lewis

This month Colin Basterfield and Bryn Lewis will be talking about their experiences with nServiceBus at House of Travel.

nServiceBus is a powerful, yet lightweight, open source messaging framework for designing distributed .NET enterprise systems. Entirely pluggable yet simple to use, NServiceBus gives programmers a head-start on developing robust, scalable, and maintainable service-layers and long-running business processes.

nServiceBus is developed and maintained by Udi Dahan. Udi Dahan’s tag line is the “software simplest” and he is an internationally renowned expert on software architecture and design. In addition he has been recognized with the “Most Valuable Professional” award by Microsoft Corporation for solutions architecture and connected systems 4 years in a row.

DNUG Meeting: The Zen of Inversion of Control

Friday, May 15th, 2009
Photo of Christopher Fairbairn
Date: Wednesday May 20th 2009
Time: Gather at 5:30 pm, starting at 6:00 pm
Location: Canterbury Innovation Incubator
Presenter: Christopher Fairbairn

Heard of the concepts Inversion of Control and Dependency Injection, but not quite sure what they are or how they can be applied to your day to day coding? Then this demo filled presentation is for you!

Learn from one beginner’s journey to better understand the fundamentals, without feeling the need for a dictionary to translate all the foreign terms and concepts that inevitably come about.

And even if you’re a Dependency Injection guru, you may learn a little background knowledge of new languages features introduced in C# 2.0 and C# 3.0 that make things easier to implement.

DNUG Meeting: SQL Server 2008 New Features tour

Monday, April 20th, 2009
Photo of Rob Hawthorne
Date: Tuesday April 28th 2009
Time: Gather at 5:30 pm, starting at 6:00 pm
Location: Canterbury Innovation Incubator
Presenter: Rob Hawthorne

SQL Server 2008 delivers on Microsoft’s Data Platform vision by helping your organization manage any data, any place, any time.

This new release builds on the great platform laid with SQL Server 2005, enhancing it with great new capabilities such as native support for spatial data, database encryption and compression and enhanced manageability through Policy Based Management, Powershell and the Resource Governor as well as many new great enhancements for Analysis Services and Reporting Services.

Come join us for the Christchurch stop of this national tour, as we delve into the new features of SQL Server 2008 and the benefits they can bring to your organisation.

TechDays 2009 – April 1st – Defy all challenges

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

What will you be doing on April the 1st? As a developer you should be planning to be part of Microsoft’s TechDays 2009 event. This 24 hour event is a series of live and recorded webcasts that slowly moves around the virtual globe. It’s a chance to learn with more than 95 technical sessions on current and merging technologies in mobility, Windows, Office, Sharepoint and Web development. It’s also a unique opportunity to meet and connect with Microsoft employees and industry experts alike.

It’s also my first oppertunity to present a webcast for Microsoft. During the event I’ll be presenting two great presentations originally developed by Paul Yao and Alex Yakhnin as the event rolls through my timezone.

You can view a constantly updated list of sessions for further details. Including details on the two presentations I will be presenting.

  • MBL201a Win32 versus .NETCF: The Right API for Your Job – The Windows Mobile platform offers two core APIs. Each has its strengths and situations when one makes sense over the other. This session provides a framework for selecting which API makes sense, when it makes sense, and why each choice makes sense for the given scenarios. This session provides details that will ensure that you never feel at a loss when encountering this question.
  • MBL400a Creating Compelling and Attractive UIs for Windows Mobile Applications – In this webcast, we explain how to utilize the Alpha blending and Gradient drawing APIs on the Windows Mobile platform to create a compelling and attractive user experience in your mobile applications. We also provide an example of how to create a framework that could be used to simplify the development of custom user interfaces.

Make sure you register today!

Community Interview: Peter Vrenken

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Photo of Peter Vrenken1) Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Peter Vrenken and I am a 30 year software engineer happily living with my girlfriend in the east of the rainy Netherlands (the city of Almelo to be precise).

I call myself a “software gadgeteer” (sometimes also referred to as a geek :-)). I’m not only interested in Windows Mobile development but also other kinds of software technology such as artificial intelligence, user-interface theory, software development tools and innovation such as PhotoSynth, Panoramio, and Google Gears.

2) Who do you work for?

At the moment I’m working as a Mobile Software Engineer for Sigmax Mobile Solutions (located in Enschede). I work in a team that develops law enforcement and supervision solutions. One of my tasks involves the development of new features for the mobile application and its user-interface. And no, adding a new skip-my-parking-ticket feature is not allowed!

I am also studying towards a Masters in Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society at the University of Twente. I have written my thesis on how end-users more and more influence the development of mobile software appliances. Mobile devices are starting to grow out of their child-age and are steadily throwing off their gadget-image to become the mobile tools we want them to be.

3) How did you become involved in Windows Mobile based development?

To finish my Bachelor in Software Engineering I had to do a project for Pemstar B.V. (now known as Benchmark Electronics). One of the new products they were developing was based on an Intel PXA255 hardware platform running Windows CE 3.0. I developed a stress-test tool which could test the different hardware device drivers of the platform. The result of this research was a working set of desktop and device tools written in C# and native C++ that worked together and could be scripted. It was the first time I had worked with both .NET and mobile hardware, and was truly a great project to work on.

4) When did you start developing your own personal applications?

Researching the stress-test environment for Windows CE increased my affinity with these devices, and as a developer I just cannot seem to use a piece of hardware without fiddling around with it and finding out how it works. I see the development of mobile consumer software as a hobby, but my girlfriend calls it a curse whenever I try to write some software to tweak and tune a device she uses!

5) One of the applications that you offer for sale from your website is called MusicAlarm. How did this come about?

MusicAlarm started out with me being jealous at all non Windows Mobile phones that can awake you in the morning by playing a nice song. I got annoyed with the horrific sounds available on a Windows Mobile device and the complex configuration of the standard alarm application.

To be precise my girlfriend got annoyed of me not being able to quickly stop the alarms from playing. This got me thinking about how an alarm application should work. The result is MusicAlarm, which can be downloaded from my website.

6) What is your preferred development environment?

I have really grown fond of C#. It is a very powerful language that is still easy to understand, while being flexible enough when complexity kicks in. For example the Platform Invoke feature comes in handy accessing Windows Mobile specific functionality not exposed by the .NET Compact Framework.

As a development tool Visual Studio 2008 rocks!

7) A number of your applications have fairly custom looking user interfaces. How challenging is it to develop rich user interfaces using the existing tools?.

Very challenging. Out of the box the tools within the .NET Compact Framework only allow the most basic looking applications that conform to the guidelines set out by Microsoft. Radical deviations required for complex user interfaces are not easily realised.

Customisation of built in controls is very limited and when more advanced GUI features are required the .NET Compact Framework sometimes really hinders development.

As an example take the simple situation of drawing text on a picture or gradient background.. This problem is something which a lot of people come across during development (just read the support forums) and requires some kind of transparent label. On Windows Mobile the inner workings of windows controls limit the realisation of such a label, which results in a lot of weird workarounds and incomplete patches being proposed.

8) Do you carry a Windows Mobile device with you at present?

Yes I do, at the moment an HTC Kaiser, which is also used for development and testing purposes. Sometimes – like on vacation – I also carry my old HTC Wizard, but mostly so that my girlfriend can play a game of Bubble Breaker :-)

9) If you had the choice of having one feature implemented in the next release of Windows Mobile what would it be?

I really like the diversity of the hardware Windows Mobile is available on. There is a device to suit every person’s preference.

However, I think the Windows Mobile platform misses out on features that are required to make stunning user interfaces. Take for example the Win32 or GDI+ APIs. The versions that can be used on devices are only limited subsets of those available on desktop machines. The hardware and operating system are fast and powerful enough to allow applications to be enhanced by fancy graphics and animated effects, but the available APIs make it less than straight forward.

The look and feel of a Pocket PC 2003 devices just looks like a mini version of Windows 98. If devices such as the Apple iPhone or HTC devices with TouchFlo user interface demonstrate anything it is that mobile devices do not need to carry desktop specific user interfaces and metaphors.

This leads me to the conclusion that Microsoft would do great on rethinking the requirements of a mobile user-interface. It wouldn’t surprise me if a technology such as Silverlight will be the start of a move in this direction.

Until then developers like myself will try to make the best of it by cooking our own user interface APIs and frameworks.

10) If you had one thing to say to potential developers what would it be?

Keep faith and don’t forget to interact with the community. Developing advanced Windows Mobile applications can be very tedious but very satisfying. The Windows Mobile community has some very nice forums and websites where loads of information can be found.

Windows Mobile development sometimes requires advanced know how and alternative techniques (I like to call it voodoo :-)).

The forums like the ones found on MSDN really can make a difference when you know where and how to search for information. Also don’t forget to review some of the available webcasts and videos.

DNUG Meeting: From nUnit to Awesome Rock Song

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
Photo of Dave Mateer
Date: Wednesday 21st January 2009
Time: Gather at 5:30 pm, starting at 6:00 pm
Location: Canterbury Innovation Incubator
Presenter: Dave Mateer

In his mission to become a great developer, Dave will entertain you with ‘From nUnit to Awesome Rock Song’. Dave will demonstrate the time and heartache savings (which allowed time and energy to do the music).

Tools and technologies (ab)used in this talk will include: C#, .NET 3.5 SP1, VS2008 Express, PHP, JSON, MySQL, and nUnit. Dave will demo the Awesome Rock Song too!

If you’ve heard of unit testing, this presentation is for you. Bring your laptop along and take away your first working unit test project. Your future development projects will be easier!

DNUG Meeting: How to wow your audience and still talk geek

Sunday, October 12th, 2008
Photo of Bryce Saunders
Date: Tuesday 21st October 2008
Time: Gather at 5:30 pm, starting at 6:00 pm
Location: Canterbury Innovation Incubator
Presenter: Bryce Saunders

Every developer at one stage or another has to provide a technical presentation to their boss, or an important client. Being able to convey technical concepts in a clear and concise manor is a valuable skill to have.

Bryce intends to cover techniques to handle nervousness, ways to structure your presentation to convey your points, and how to look like a pro while doing it.

The presentation is also an ideal way to gain a confidence boost for those keen to give presenting a go at the Christchurch Code Camp in November (http://www.codecamp.net.nz).