You guys have been asking for a better user interface and more frequent check-ins with my progress. Your requests have finally been answered. It’s only a small portion of the app, but I hope it is satisfactory as a teaser.
Spoiler: My Next Project
As my coding of Vine for Windows Phone slows and my work on the interface increased, I can’t help but wonder what my next project will be. That said, I launched Expression Design 4 today to prepare this teaser for you guys. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t plan on abandoning this one or slowing work on it just because I have another great idea. In fact, this is just the opposite. I’m dedicating all my time to Vine and want a great public beta release with a final version one to follow in an update thereafter, so please don’t email me begging to be in a beta for this because there won’t be one for quite some time. There isn’t much to say, but please feel free to share your thoughts about my next app in the comments below.
Progress Update: Vine for Windows Phone
Progress on my 3rd-party Vine app (made using Vine’s private API documented here) is as follows:
- Login (including saving username / password — encrypted of course)
- Primary Timeline
- Popular Timeline
- Comments (including mentioning)
Work In Progress
- Improved UI / UX (metro or bust)
- Live Tile w/ Powered by Background Agent
- Search (People & Hashtags)
- Hashtag Timelines
The State of Uploading
As for uploading, this is a trickier subject. I’ve been having issues with with upload feature because instead of going through their private API, they upload Vines (is that what we call them?) straight to their AWS.
Beta Round 1: Test “Grapevine” for Windows Phone
It’s time to begin testing the first (alpha) version of my latest project under the working-name of “Grapevine”. Before you apply, you might want to know a little bit about the app you will be testing and my criteria for you as a tester:
You must have…
- Worked with Windows/Windows Phone App Development
- A Microsoft Developer Account
- A Developer Unlocked Windows Phone (version doesn’t matter, as long as it is unlocked)
- Signed Up for DVLUP
- What will this app do? It is a 3rd-party client for Vine (made by Twitter)
- How will it utilize core Windows Phone features? Tile based notifications, in-app toast notifications, and more
- What information do I need to provide? Only the email on your Microsoft developer account
- How do I apply? Ask on Twitter or email me using the link on the sidebar to the left
- Will I get a free version of the app? Yes, you will get the final version and any future updates for free
- Is it possible I could get DVLUP points for being a tester? I am currently working on that, but don’t expect to
- Once it is published, what will you most likely charge for the app? $1.29 USD, with occasional discount
- Who do I have to thank for this? Myself, Michael Perry, and Randall Arnold
Achievement Unlocked: School Newspaper
An article was recently written about me and placed in my school’s newspaper. Even having interviewed for the article, there are still some factual discrepancies, but overall the article is a pleasure to read.
Computer programming competitions provide challenges, open doors
Just a mouse click away from giving up, he found it–the last typo. All the hours he spent coding the program had finally paid off. For as long as he can remember, freshman Graham Smith has been captivated by computers. His interest was first sparked when his older brother build and managed a website. To learn more about programming, Smith and his brother set up a Twitter account.
“Once I was on Twitter, I had access to people,” Smith said. “Programmers who knew more about certain topics than I did began to follow me. They started answering my questions, so that’s how I expanded my interest and my knowledge.”
Although Smith’s brother was supportive of his interest in computers, his parents were somewhat hesitant about their young son being connected to social media.
“I got punished once because I was communicated with strangers on Twitter,” he said. “While it was a source of knowledge for me, it was a source of danger for my parents. Now they think what I do is cool, but they’re still very restrictive.”
Recently, Smith has pursued his interest in computer programming, and last summer he joined a group of 120 programmers sponsored by Nokia. The group competes with other programmers worldwide to create new applications and software systems, some of which are published for public use.
“The group was originally started by a random programmers, and people started to join,” Smith said. “It’s hosted on meetup.com, which is like Facebook for groups of people who meet up locally and discuss projects. At Nokia there is a man named Randall Arnold, who works as a developer ambassador. He discovered the group and decided to sponsor it. There’s a whole network of ambassadors all over the world who provide programming knowledge, and it’s their job to find events for us to go to.”
On Jan. 26, Smith competed in the Collin County Community College Global Game Jam, where his team had 48 hours to build a game with a particular theme.
“The Global Game Jam has a theme, and this year it was heartbeat,” Smith said. “There’s an old game called Asteroid Defense, and we put a new spin on it. We decided to put satellites in our game. You’de have to click on the satellites and they’d emit a pulse, which was our take on the heartbeat. If you could capture a meteor inside of two pulses, a laser would fire and destroy it.”
Smith has also been part of creating other apps, such as Unify, which allows students to create online study groups and rate group members in categories including productivity and creativity. The scores are averaged to give every student a score that can be seen on his or her profile.
“It’s really designed for academics, but it definitely helps for finding groups as well,” Smith said. “This app is built to find people based on the criteria of their profiles and then create study groups with people who have similar scores. It’s good for finding people that work well, work hard, and that you’ll want to work with.”
Smith’s passion for programming constantly motivates him to learn more about coding.
“I think with programming you learn a computer language,” he said. “It’s a whole language that you can talk to other programmers about and in. You look at another person’s code and it’s kind of like you’re communicated with that person because you can see his or her personality in the code. I think that it’s just amazing–the possibilities of what you can create are endless.”
Smith’s interest in programming led him to take a Java/Processing course at SMU last summer, as well as robotics, Java, and animation at school. He has been offered several internships for next summer, including one at a technology company in Frisco.
In the future, Smith plans to continue to pursue programming and game design.
“My dream college is Stanford,” Smith said. “I have hope to be accepted there because they have a good computer science program. No matter where I go, I’m going to pursue a career in technology.”
Achievement Unlocked: Publicity Stunt
It hasn’t been long since November, but it sure feels like it. That’s why I’m writing today about an article written about me from the end of November. I originally forgot to share it with this blog, so I thought now would be a perfect time to do so given my recent feature in my school’s newspaper. Do keep in mind that both articles weren’t written by geeks, so expect some factual and technical discrepancies.
ESD Students Win Award At UNT “Hackathon” Event
For some, the thought of collaborating with their peers is enough to make even the most group-oriented student think swimming with sharks or writing a 50-page essay is more appealing. But now, thanks in part to two Upper School students from the Episcopal School of Dallas, a new smartphone app could make those dreaded group projects a little less stressful.
Introducing “Younify,” a program that allows students to rank their peers on creativity, flexibility, participation, and resourcefulness once a group project has been completed. Each criterion is judged on a five-star scale and made available for other app users to view when it comes times to selecting peer groups for the next project. ESD sophomore Armon Naeini and freshman Graham Smith say the app can also be used by teachers to identify how much a student is contributing to the overall effort.
“It’s probably more for college students and professors right now,” Smith says. “Teachers can benefit from the program because it can help them determine what students may need help on certain projects or better identify who is struggling to understand certain material.”
“It can help match students with other people in their class when it comes time to forming study groups,” Naeini explains. “Since college classes can be so big, this app makes it easy to narrow down a search and find people you can work with.”
The idea was developed last month when Naeini and Smith joined forces with students and faculty members from the University of North Texas for the UNT Campus 2.0 Hackathon presented by the university’s Innovation Center and College of Arts and Sciences. Two students from UNT presented “Younify” after identifying a need for a program that allows students to search out peers in the same class that they would be compatible study-mates.
On the first day of the contest, Naeini and Smith teamed up with a group of college students and professional developers and programmers to start building and testing the app. Through the night, the seven-member group worked together to form a central idea and then design and test the app. The ESD students worked together to develop the graphics interface and navigation, while the rest of the team worked to create the “back end” and server that support the program. Nearly 26 hours later, “Younify” was born, winning the contest’s “Highest Impact to UNT” award.
“Armon and I stayed out in Denton until about midnight and then drove back to Dallas and worked on their part of the app until about 6:00 a.m.,” Smith explains. “Then we went back to UNT after an hour of sleep and finished the project.”
“The best part was frantically trying to fix the last-minute errors before we were supposed to present, Naeini says. “It was also pretty cool because I won a Windows phone in a random drawing.”
With the competition behind them, Smith and Naeini are working to ensure the Windows 7 version is compatible with the upcoming Windows 8 version. An iPhone and Android app are also expected to be released in early 2013.
Achievement Unlocked: “Best Use of Child Labor”
After a long weekend of hard work at the Global Game Jam in Plano, Texas, I have much to share. Aside from my egregious encounter with XNA for Windows Phone, I’d say the weekend went pretty well. I enjoyed working with Long Ma and James Porter, but I even more enjoyed the conversations and laughs I shared in-between work. I met two new League of Legends players, met some board-game enthusiasts, reacquainted myself with “Squirrel” from SMU’s Guildhall, who I met initially at a tour of SMU’s Guildhall during the Summer of 2012, and much more. What I’ve taken from this event, besides an opportunity for a paid internship, is the following:
What I Learned
- Microsoft isn’t dedicated to XNA, DirectX, or Silverlight in Windows Phone game development
- Don’t try to learn game development (either vanilla, with a framework, or with an engine) in 48 hours
- When it doubt, use Unity (it’s what all the hip developers are using nowadays)
- During a hackathon, always have a secondary version of your app or game that works as a proof-of-concept
The Microsoft Debacle
Mentioned among the things I learned, I said that XNA, DirectX, and Silverlight are not viable options for Windows Phone development. Even though we only recently gained support for DirectX with the addition of game development in C++ for Windows Phone, Microsoft has decided to drop the framework in addition to XNA, which is also young given the age of the Windows Phone platform itself. Microsoft has buried the hatchet, basically leaving game development in the hands of MonoGame, Cocos2D-x for Windows Phone (& Cocos2D-x for XNA), and Unity. While I am only beginning to acquire a deep and broad understanding of Windows Phone and Windows 8/RT development, I must say they are making it hard for people without college level experience in game development to get started. App and game development are a completely different animal.
2013 Global Game Jam @ Plano Location
PLANO, Texas—January 25 – 27—Collin County Community College is hosting their portion of the Global Game Jam (GGJ), which offers a variety of opportunities in game design. Entrants that register on the official GGJ website and attend are able to work on software based gamed games, card games, board gamed, etc. with no creative boundaries. The event will be themed, such a theme example can be drawn from the Nordic GGJ, where the theme this year was a singular word: ‘grotesque’. The event is open to all age levels (as I would know) and people of all backgrounds, whether they be in code, design, or no prior experience at all, are welcome.
To register for this event, create an account at the event website and select USA > Plano as your Jam Site.
Enable Windows 8′s built-in administrator account
In my attempts to bypass an issue with Windows 8 and Hyper-V when running the Windows Phone emulator, I discovered I needed access to my computer’s administrator account. While not initially apparent, there is one already one established and it is easy to gain access to using the following steps:
- Logged into your default user account, launch Command Prompt with administrator access
- Type: net user administrator /active:yes
Simply by following those two steps, you will see your Administrator account the next time you want to login or switch users.
Diamond-Productions open-sourcing Windows Phone version of Notch’s ‘Minicraft’
Not to be confused with Minecraft, Minicraft is yet another product of the man known as “Notch,” less familiarly known as Markus Persson. Dedicated to his father, the game was originally built as a Java browser-game for the 22′nd Ludum Dare Competition (December 19, 2011).
You might be wondering why, if Notch built Minicraft in Java, there would be a Windows Phone version. To that we owe Peter Elzner our respect, the man behind the Windows Phone version of Minicraft. Recently, I sent Peter an email through the Diamond-Productions website. The email was a request for the open-sourcing of the Windows Phone edition of Minicraft. I had all but given up on waiting for a reply, but today I finally heard back from him. He told me:
Sorry for the delay. I was already thinking about making Minicraft open source and I just started to clean up the code so that I can send it to CodePlex.com in a few weeks. I think that although Minicraft might be a good example of how to code a simple game, it is a bad example of how to do things in XNA. This is the result of the game originally written as a Java browser-game. If you like I can send you a preview of the code in a week or two. I haven’t had time to test it in Visual Studio 2012 and/or Windows Phone 8; my version of Minicraft was developed with Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone 7