• A Phone competition, and free software for Students through Dreamspark

    Apr 3, 2012

    Being a student studying computer science I regularly use a variety of software packages to get the job done. One of the powerful tools in the first year of university was Visual Studio. But I was aware that not many students were informed where they could download this software, the simple answer is through Dreamspark (www.dreamspark.com). This is a portal to free software for all students at participating Universities. You can grab a lot of useful tools here, in particular for a competition for a Nokia Lumia 800.

    The Windows Phone Incentive scheme this year has started. The idea is that students who are eligible dream big, and create useful and beautiful applications for the Windows Phone 7 market place with a chance to grab one of the shiny new Windows Phone 7 devices, and win a trip to the Microsoft Technology Centre here in the U.K. You can find further details at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoftukstudents/archive/2012/03/13/new-student-incentive-write-apps-chance-to-win-a-windows-phone.aspx

    Now that the University of Reading has had it's Phone Camp event day from Microsoft and three lucky people were rewarded with a brand new Nokia Lumia 800, maybe those folks will still give creating an app a try!

  • University of Reading Phone Camp 14/03

    Mar 6, 2012

    The Microsoft Academic team is coming the the University of Reading for a day introducing people to the Windows Phone 7 platform. Come along and get your feet wet with some Microsofties!

    The event runs from 1pm - 6pm on Wednesday the 14/03. I'll be there. To sign up to the event check your  University inboxes if you're a student, or email Microsoft at ukstu@microsoft.com.

    Think up some app ideas before the day and maybe on it they can become reality, and if you're a student, they could be published for free, and you can even make money from them. Learning a skill that can make money from nothing is certainly useful!

    Not at Reading? Not to worry, you can see a full list of planned Phone Camps here.

    There's an opportunity to win one of 3 brand new Nokia Lumia 800s!

    Download the software in advance from Dreamspark and get set up ready for a day of development!

  • Avoiding Virgin Media

    Mar 4, 2012

    You're a student on a technical degree with need of a high speed, reliable, internet connection that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

    You notice that Virgin Media serves as a viable option to do meet these requirements. With a fast setup and relatively cheap unlimited internet to your door with no line rental what could go wrong?

    The short answer is; a lot. Too much in fact. Since day one the router firmware failed to update correctly so despite the helpful engineer coming to install the service it remained unusable until we decided, by chance, to perform a factory reset. Additionally on day one their online activation service was down so it was only after performing numerous phone calls that we were able to activate, which turns out uses the same system that was down, so even a Virgin Media employee was helpless to assist.

    Then you see that amazing 50mb download speed that you'd only dreamed of until this point. Then the fun begins. The sub-standard Virgin Media Superhub that you are supplied with may as well be a soldered blob, it's useless on wireless. With frequent drop outs, slow downs and packet loss you also get the joy of a minute amount of the 50mb bandwidth that you pay for.

    From then on it becomes a battle to do downloads in non-peak times, often being faster on a mobile. Rather than admit there's a fault on your service on the status page, it seems Virgin Media are content with you thinking this sort of rubbish is normal for them. After ringing up the staff seem unaware of any issues, yet on the Forums there are numbers referred to and fix dates. However, the first fix date was for a different problem. The other problem was due to be fixed 2 days later, neither have sorted it.

    It's a bit of a wasted effort writing this so I'll stop there. But this isn't acceptable - even if they'll refund on a substandard month. They won't rebate for 5 months of poor service which is entirely their fault.

    I can't help but find it hilarious that they're advertising new speeds in Reading of 100MB and 120MB for users. They can't even make 10 at peak times. I could actually go and buy a DVD on amazon and have it arrive before I could watch it on Netflix.

  • FYP progress update

    Feb 14, 2012

    I recently hit half a milestone in my project of getting the server (Content management system) communicating with the Android application, which then parses the result, and stores it on a SQLite database for persistant data - it's expected that the application may be used in areas of little, or no, signal at times and so data needn't be retrieved live on each use, but it should manage with data that has already been downloaded.

    Here are a couple of videos demonstrating the capability of the application.

    This video demonstrates the navigation and menu system of the application. The controls for the main menu screen are populated from the database on-the-fly. This data is also stored between application launches, in order to expedite the learning experience on the device - I believe that someone is likely to dip in and out of this application to study a particular topic, which I've defined as a 'Part' of a 'Programme', which is part of a 'Course'.

    The navigation system between the questions has changed slightly to be more touch screen and user friendly based on some feedback from my supervisor I am now aware at how little the menu button is actually pressed or utilised in applications. So on-screen touch-interactive buttons have been used instead to make the application flow more fitting. This also removes the ability to back track (and change answers). It also reflects on Google's own application which is similar to this.

    This next video demonstrates the speed and user feedback for updating the application's main menu. It took me a while to realise that calling .start() on a thread rather than .run() would allow for a more responsive user interface.

    I then demonstrate how the device handles issues connecting to the web server. I do this by killing the rails server running on my machine.

    I'm trying to make sure the feedback is multi-lingual along with the rest of the app. After a bit of re-shuffling I've been able to once again access the Resources Java file and do this, whereas before, due to where it was, I was unable to do so.

    Feedback is appreciated and valuable to me at this stage - as you can see it's still not finished, but I don't believe it's far off now!