• Uk Tech Days Special

    Oct 6, 2010

    Thanks to our Imagine Cup team’s enthusiasm we became the first UK team to register for the competition this year. As a reward for this @MsUkStudents invited us to attend the Uk Tech Days special on the 5th of October, during which Steve Ballmer was Keynote Speaker. We all snapped up the opportunity, things like this don’t come around often. I’d like to thank @bennuk and @MsUkStudents for this thoroughly enjoyable and awesome opportunity.

    A fairly early start, in comparison to what I’ve been used to lately, of 7am to get to ExCel (the ICC) in time for the event. We arrived ‘fashionably early’; using time to explore the caverns that are the ICC.

    Next up was an awesome demo of Windows Phone 7 by @bennuk which left us wanting one – for me, once again. They’re an awesome bit of kit, a totally different user experience from other platforms with heavy integration with other platforms. Really smooth interaction and ultra responsive, but more on that in another post.

    After our previous failed attempts at entering the event, because it wasn’t open, we were then able to pick up our name badges for the day, which I’m glad to say we were allowed to keep. Picking up our lunch gave us time for some networking with each other (@Daniel_Parker @jhomerston @majorshots @adambonneruk @liamwba @olivier_vg), real world developers and other past Student Partners.

    The event was opened by Steve Ballmer. He said he didn’t want to come between us and Windows Phone 7, which shows how highly he rates it. Ballmer’s talk was majorly focused on new opportunities and utilising the existing and future technologies that Microsoft Have to offer. To him, the cloud did not stop the need for powerful devices, in fact, almost the opposite. Clients want to use smarter, faster, better devices utilising the cloud’s features.

    This idea is what has driven IE9 to be what we see it today. A browser, displaying as much of the site, while hiding the fact that it’s a browser. Making use of the computer’s capabilities – hardware acceleration.
    Frequent mentions of Sharepoint and Windows Phone 7, at a talk about the cloud, leads me to believe something big is going to happen with Sharepoint in the cloud. It also confirms how strongly Microsoft is pushing WP7. Get ready for the release – you won’t be able to miss the marketing.

    Following Ballmer’s talk he took a Q&A session. Questions asked varied in area and response. A lot of these prompted him to note things down, which shows he is keen to make changes that developers want, after all we are his “favourite people”.

    Running digs and jokes at other companies were also quite heavily engrained in Ballmer’s talk. With iPad users being told to “bend over” and Android developers told to develop for Windows Phone 7 where your app “will work on all Windows Phone 7 phones”.

    Next up were various ‘Deep Dives’ into Microsoft products and services.

    IE9 by @thebeebs Slides

    Azure by @ericnel Slides

    Windows 7 by @mtaulty Slides

    Windows Phone 7 by @MikeOrmond Slides

    Blog posts for these subjects/talks will follow.

    After all of these talks, the day for us didn’t end immediately. We had a meal in Nandos with some jokes and chatter. A couple of other students who had attended the event (@timROGERS & @Duffleman) joined us and @bennuk. Apparently students provided 45% of overall tweets for the day. Shows the drive and enthusiasm we have!

    A great day out with a lot of people to talk to and meet. A chance to see Steve Ballmer – something I recommend you never turn down. Full of, almost scary, relevance to @Inspiratech’s project idea for Imagine Cup.

    Edit 7/10/10: Added slide links

  • Twitter: Open Conversations - My thoughts

    Sep 27, 2010

    The University of Reading is in the process of migrating it's email to Live@edu - an awesome tool, which I greatly look forward to using. With this some issues arose, prompting @PatParslow and I to engage in an open conversation via Twitter.

    Our tweets were both public, and also included in the timelines of people who follow the both of us. Because of this @jamesbmarshall joined in as a form of (very good) Customer Support. Queries were answered and problems solved. Not all ideal, but hey ho. Following this another thread sparked, which I've interpreted to be about the use of Twitter in the form of 'open conversations'.

    It seems opinion on the subject is divided, but not clear cut. I'm not saying what I say is the iron fist; but my opinion. I've noticed many such 'open conversations' on Twitter myself. Generally I tend to ignore them if they aren't of interest to me, which granted isn't often. I also become aware after a few exchanges that other people may not care about seeing what I have to say on the subject - this is to a point, they are following me after all.

    To me, 'open conversations' are greatly convenient. I may have met them in person, however not to a point of exchanging contact details past Twitter. Along with this there is limited outside input when using other means. I find other people's content can really induce some interesting thoughts.

    My idea would be to have an optional timing-based filter on timelines. This would make use of 'reply threads' and timings to judge whether or not an 'open conversation' is taking place between 2 or more people you follow. This would then be move this and subsequent tweets into a separate area, which you could view as you wish. This conversation thread could then possibly be merged back into the general timeline a while after it is finished (a conversation should be 'active' to remain separate).

    I think that would be a good feature - it should be optional of course. Merging it back would allow for easy track backs. I would say it could be in an 'active conversations' section.

    I believe Twitter should be an open platform so I say again that this is just an opinion. I find it interesting to see how people use it.

    I'm interested to see what you think, so if you feel like it please drop a comment bellow.

  • My take on IE9

    Sep 17, 2010

    I’m no web developer, I’ve made my site and that’s about the sole experience of it I’ve had. I’m sure that will change as time goes on. Naturally I checked how my site looks in IE9, turns out the same as other leading browsers, which is good for me. Microsoft have really worked to be compatible with standards a lot more.

    If you haven’t tried it out yet you can pick it up from here.

    So I’ve been using IE9 from the day after it was released. There are a number things I like about it, but my use of it hasn’t been painless.


    IE9 allows you to pin web applications to your taskbar. After seeing this it wasn’t long before I had my 2 most frequently used apps pinned. The pinned apps have styling to blend in with the theme of the app, this distracts from the point of it being in IE, it really feels a lot more like a native app.

    Twitter pinned

    Applications that have been pinned can utilise jump lists, for example on twitter you effectively have jump list shortcuts for Mentions and the like. Saves having to navigate the site and page loads.

    Graphics Hardware Acceleration

    This is another feature you should visit www.beautyoftheweb.co.uk for. It really utilises your computer for a nice browser experience. Laggy responses are gone, instead you see the site as the developer intended. Microsoft have got this right, as they should, it’s their OS after all.

    Download Manager

    Due to a slight issue I had with the Dreamspark website I was unable to use their download manager. I had to download it all using internet explorer. In the past it hasn’t been great. Here it is now:


    Not too shabby.

    A thing which could be useful, if you’re downloading executables, is that it scans the  This will be useful for people taking their first steps on the web. Or analyses it at least. If it’s something found that isn’t deemed as good, you are warned.

    My issues

    Using blogger as a blogging platform I’m able to view some analytics for how many views different pages get and so on. However in IE9 this page didn’t load. There’s an uncaught exception which prevents it from continuing to load. The solution wasn’t difficult to find. Compatibility view was an easy toggle, although, unclear at first as to where it was – see bellow.

    Combatibility mode

    A trivial one is the fact that all my bookmarks are on Chrome, which is all well and good, if I could transfer them with ease. But even so, pinning my most common apps means I don’t really need to use them often.

    For whatever reason, I was unable to install BBC iPlayer the desktop app. I have heard of other people having problems trying to install this too.

    HTML5 is being pushed with this. But it isn’t something new. Other browsers have been able to cope with it for quite a while now. Yes, they may not do it quite as smoothly, because they haven’t quite got the acceleration right. A lot of the features aren’t really ‘new’ in comparison to other web browsers. Pinning is, to me, what sells it. I know I could have the shortcuts on my desktop, but that is so much cooler, the amount I use web apps it pays to get there in one click.

    I’m yet to have a use for the accelerators, I’m also sure other browsers have plugins to do the same thing, but that isn’t ‘out of the box’ as such.

    I like the minimalist UI, it gives me the vertical space I want most when browsing. At first glance it’s larger than Chrome’s, possibly even if you have the bookmarks bar. But Being able to pin things, for me almost eliminates the immediate bookmarks. But I also I like bookmark syncing. Another thing, which helps with the space thing. It saves your zoom level, now I’m aware this is probably the same for other browsers. But I haven’t had luck with that in the past myself.

    Seems like they’ve finished playing catch up now, but not really stepped ahead. I will have to see which I prefer in time, it is a beta after all.

  • New installation & Free stuff

    Sep 16, 2010

    I’m sure you've heard about Microsoft releasing the IE9 beta (you can grab it see some showcased stuff here). I’ve been using it today and I’m liking it.

    Today, after this announcement I decided that it was high time I installed Windows 7 on my 3 year old Macbook. I have a laptop which had an average battery life of around 30 minutes. Great, just enough time to start up check a couple of things and plug it back in. Not really a laptop any more.

    Apple really do make some awesome hardware. One of the most useful thing for me is the fact they designed their magnisafe power adapter. It hasn’t been often I’ve picked up or moved my laptop and pulled it out, but knowing that it can cope easily and won’t be damaged gives me peace of mind.

    So I went ahead and installed Windows 7. Painless, but a slightly different experience as it was using BootCamp. Next was to install Microsoft Security Essentials, soon followed by IE9 and the Windows Live Essentials beta, which I saw demoed a while back,see my previous blog post. All provided for free. Good to go for the most frequent things I use - I’m actually using the Windows Live Writer beta to write this post.

    Next to install are Visual Studio and Expression Studio. If you’re a student you can pick these up for free on Dreamspark. It is required that you verify yourself as a student in order to do so.

    I found a slight issue with this part of the process. So I had to pick up a cookie from Reading in order to verify. Then I had an issue with the download manager not starting, so I have had a chance to check out how downloads are handled in IE9, but that’s for another post.