Beyond the Tiles

Monday was me, Johan (@johankson) and David(@d_andersson) visiting Microsoft for a seminar about design, primary for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. Arturo Toledo (@arturot), Alex Toledo (@toledoal) and Vincent Garcia (@vincentgarcia) was the speakers at the seminar. Arturo is a former member of Microsofts Windows Phone team but now he has his own company, Toledo2, together with his brother Alex. The third speaker Vincent Garcia are working with design for Windows 8 and Windows Phone at Avanade Digital.

The Toledo brothers start the day by giving us a lesson in design history and talked about the Swiss design school and the international style. It's there the Metro design or Microsoft design language as it's called today, has its roots.

One of the message of the day that Microsoft design language is much more than tiles, thereof "Beyond the Tiles". They say the developers of Windows apps follow the guidelines to much and that make all Windows apps look the same, many developers use the Visual Studio templates and thinks the design has to be in that way.

Vincet Garcia showed us a couple of designs he had done for Windows 8 and Windows Phone and how the design has evolve with their increased understanding of the design language.

We also get som tip how we could improve the design of the Windows 8 version of WordRoom, thanks for that!

It was a good day and I became inspired and get much new knowledge to use in coming designs.


Browser mode in Internet Explorer

We building a web version of WordRoom, today when I tested the game on Surface RT it doesn't look like expected. I tested in desktop and I had same issue there as I had in the Windows store app of Internet Explorer. But in desktop mode I could use Internet Explorer developer tools. It shows that Internet Explorer was in IE7-mode. Because we use a lot of HTML5 features, we want to run it in IE10-mode from start.

I searched the web for solution and I found a meta tag that fixed my issue.

<meta http-equiv="x-ua-compatible" content="IE=10" />

If you want to read more about this, read this page,

Authentication with Azure Mobile Services

When developed the multiplayer part of WordRoom we discussed to use different authentication providers. But it was a lot of code to integrate each provider. And we wanted more than one. Instead we developed our own solution.

But just ask yourself, do you want to create an account everywhere with different username and passwords. I don't. When we discovered Azure Mobile Services it was an obvious choice. Mobile Service gives you authentication with Microsoft-, Google-, Facebook and Twitter account and it's for free. You only need to connect it to a database server. But we already had a database server in Azure. So i next version of WordRoom, you can authenticate with your Microsoft-, Google-, Facebook- or Twitter account.

With just a few rows of code you can authenticate the user with one of the authentication providers.
That Mobile Service is for five different platforms is a huge strength. You can use it for Windows Store applications, Windows Phone, Android, iOS and HTML5/JavaScript. If you use Xamarin Studio for developing your Android and iOS apps, there is a third part library.

In a Windows Store application you just add the SDK, some rows in App.xaml.cs and one row where you want to authenticate the user.

user = await App.MobileService

Read more about Mobile Services


WordRoom in spotlight at Windows store

Our game WordRoom has been choosen to be in spotlight at Windows Store in Sweden for the fourth time! No when more people using Windows 8 than last we was in spotlight we hopefully can get more players. It's fun that Microsoft like our game. We are also on of ten apps that Microsoft Sweden have choosen for their website,

WordRoom in spotlight at Windows 8 store

WordRoom in spotlight at Windows 8 store





If Apple had done Windows 8 nobody have missed the start menu

I tired of all talk about the start menu in windows 8, or the lack of the start menu. Instead of a start menu with sub menus to get lost in we have got a start screen that we can customized in the way we want. How many used the start menu in Windows 7? I did it very rare. I press Windows button and then I started to type the name of the application I wanted to start. Microsoft have done research that shows that many people start their applications that way. Because of that they improved the search.
If Apple had done Windows 8, it have been a cool new start screen. Now it was Microsoft and a the same people that says Microsoft need innovation are not giving Windows 8 a real chance to show how good it really is.
But I could understand that things could be confused with Windows 8 in the beginning, for me it wasn't the start menu, it was the charm bar. But after a few days with Windows 8 I have now problem with the charm bar and I miss it when I using Windows 7.

I think Windows 8 is the best operating system I have used so far.

Developing apps with mono

WordRoom started as a Windows Phone project, the third client we started to develop and the first one we released was for Windows 8. We developed the windows 8 relative fast because we could reuse a lot of the code from the Windows Phone project in that we used portal library for the core logic.

As I mentioned above, Windows 8 was the third client we started to develop. The second was for android devices. I started to build the android client with java and eclipse. Step one was to translate all core logic from C# to java, a lot of work but I developed an almost finished client for WordRoom. But in the end of 2012 when we should start to develop the client for iOS we decided to use and mono touch and mono for android from Xamarin so that we could use the same assemblies for the core logic that we did when developing for the Windows platforms. We also share data contract assemblies between the backend and the clients. So now we running the same code in at backend in Windows Azure, on Windows 8, Windows Phone, Android and iOS.

The decision to start using mono is one of the best decision we have taken. We saving a lot of time and we get an app that is much easier to maintain.

Next app I will develop I will think about that that the code will be shared between different platforms earlier in the process. Because if you have a structure in your project with GUI and business/game logic split up and using interfaces for platform specific features, for example local storage you can reuse much more code and save a lot of time.