Do programmers dream in Byte Code?

This is Boss's blog , by day I am the Managing Director of Black Marble , by night I am an MVP for BizTalk and spend my life evangalising development to all.

Microsoft Band

I have been very fortunate to get hold of a Microsoft Band. Bands are currently in short supply, but thanks to an Angel in Minnesota I have one. Currently there is no expected release date for the UK, but a quick look at EBay will turn up enough units to buy, remember the retail price is $199. CAUTION – Check

The Band is Microsoft’s first foray into the wearable's market and first impressions is that they did a good and quite an extensive job. Where most wearable focus on one or two areas, Microsoft Band covers pretty much everything.

For phone support Microsoft has made Windows Phone (obviously), Android and IOS first class citizens for the Band.


The Hardware:

The display is a capacitive 1.4-inch (11mm x 33mm) TFT full colour touchscreen, with a resolution of 320 x 106

The sensors include heart rate monitoring using a optical heart rate sensor, a UV sensor, a 3-axis accelerometer, a Gyrometer, an ambient light sensor, a skin temperature sensor and a galvanic skin response sensor.

To wrap things up Microsoft has also included Microphone,Haptic vibration motor

Microsoft says that the Band is splash proof, but NOT waterproof so be careful no showers

The Battery lasts for about two days, charging is done with a nifty magnetic USB cable.

There are two buttons, the central button is the Power Button and the off centred button is the Action button.


Getting Started:


For Windows Phone first of all you will need to install the Microsoft Health Application.

Currently the Health application is only available in the US Store. If you are outside the US, Change your region to US, reboot, download the application, change the region back, reboot and all is well.teh

The Band has enough charge to get started but plugging it in is the first step and it will wait to be paired.

Next pair the band and your phone over Bluetooth.

Then run up the application.


The Band:


band a


The Band has a set of applications which can be chosen using the Health application (select the band symbol top right), the usability is very good.

The main display shows the time, swiping to the right shows the Band status (heart rate monitoring, Bluetooth and battery) alternatively the action button cycles the small display between pulse, steps, date and exercise.


In the settings, you can change the basic sensors and if you want the band to work as a normal watch set the clock to always display, but most of the settings are done in the Health Application.

Microsoft Health:


 The health application keeps a track of the exercise you have done (more on this later) and your historic. it is also the main setup point for the Band.

Top Tip : set your height and weight and then go on a run/walk/amble with GPS on (set the run mode) to fully calibrate. 


I like what I see and it is growing on me day by day, I will post more on applications over the next few weeks





Lumia Denim

Don’t worry, Nokia are not planning to revive 70s nostalgia aftershave, Denim is the new update for Lumia's providing better low level support of the hardware.

Denim offers several key updates

Camera – for the 830/930/1520 updates specifically for HDR, Dynamic flash and 4k video and speed fixes for the 1520. as a user you will see this surfaced in the new Lumia Camera application update.

Image Quality – Denim also comes with a new generation of image processing algorithms which “should” improve picture quality.

Cortana – for the 1520 and 930 there is a new “Hey Cortana’ voice recognition which will start Cortana.

Glance – Now has Bing weather, Bing Health and other applications

Availability as ever is network dependant, but as this is generally improving, hopefully you will catch it soon.

Check for your area here

I haven’t received it on my 930 where lets hope glance makes a sorely needed appearance.


Give a Hoot, Learn to Code

This week is Computer Science Education week (CSEW) and I am really exited that Computer Science is being seen for what it is, A gateway to an amazing future.

The Hour of Code is upon us and urge everybody to look at helping children and adults do their first hour.

Microsoft have been promoting the Hour of Code and the importance of Teaching Children to program,

(Quotes from the good and myself)

To celebrate CSEW, on Wednesday Black Marble will be running a Schools Event to help Teachers and Students understand why programming and Computer Science. This is the third year we have run the event and the success of seeing students inspired to take up Computer Science is one of the greatest rewards I have received.

We have great speakers from Microsoft, Black Marble ,Oracle and other industry specialists. There are labs to help students learn.

There are still a few places, call Black Marble if you are a school or a teacher would would like to attend, please get in touch.


Keep on Coding



DDD North and IOT


Yesterday was the ever great DDDNorth. Huge thanks to everybody who came,helped, spoke and organised a great event, what a great bunch of people.

I must also thank the University of Leeds for their support in providing accommodation for the event.

A greater bunch of people where the self selecting bunch who came to Iain and my talk “The Internet of Things ,Thought about it? Now try it.”.

Thank you to everybody who came and congratulations to the people who won an Intel Galileo kit.

After feedback we will be running a follow up session in the next few months, I will be posting information on ISS as soon as I can.


Here is the main link for running Windows on Devices

For a sneak peek at ISS

To Help get Windows running on the Galileo Devices

Useful notes on remote shutdown

MQTT on Galileo


If you came I hope you had a great time and I look forward to seeing you at the next event


Windows 8.1 update 1 _KB2919355 Error: 0x80070070

While I have been pootling about updating machines at home I received an  Error: 0x80070070 for _KB2919355 patch. After some digging the problem and a bit of trial and error was the need for 4.5 Gb of free space to be available which on some of our smaller tablets was a challenge.

But simple enough, clear the space and you are set to go


Build Day One Recap and Analysis

Day one at Build brought a lot of anticipated announcements with a great mix of surprises and totally awesome demo’s.

The main overall push was the One Microsoft, in essence Microsoft has managed to bring all of their eco-systems into sync, the bottom line developer code can be used and reused across Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox One. While this may not seem a major thing to happen and to some a question of why it wasn't like this to start with, either way it means that the entry for corporate customers to deliver Windows and Windows Phone applications is now MUCH lower and I predict the support costs will be much lower as well.


So what were these announcements ?


Windows Phone 8.1

The wait for Windows Phone 8.1 is nearly over (next Wednesday for Developers, carrier dependant for mortals)

Lock Screen – the lock screen has been opened up by a new set of API’s, these API’s are not public yet, but some trusted developers will be producing a first round of non Microsoft lock screen experiences. I have always said that one of the great things Microsoft do, is to open up the platform to allow developers to hook in using rich and well tested API’s and the results of the Lock Screen efforts look well worth while.

Nokia – Nokia announced the 630 and 635 (dual sim and 4G) cost effective devices and the new flagship phone the 930 which I hope at some point soon I will be able to review.

APPX – Windows Phone now supports the AppX format.

Cortana – the singularly most anticipated feature on Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft’s new Personal Assistant. Microsoft have gone above and beyond with Cortana, the expected Natural Language recognition is supplemented with knowledge of past actions and a wealth of data from Bing. Microsoft are allowing developers to provide data to Cortana to provide a seamless cross application assistant. Jen Taylor who voiced Cortana in Halo will be the voice we will all come to know and love. As an interesting side note, Microsoft had planned follow its standard policy of cool code names leading to very dull release names, but after a public petition the code name was kept and i think it will help a lot.

Enterprise – with Cortana being the most anticipated feature, Enterprise grade features are the most needed on the platform and Microsoft have delivered on the Enterprise vision with an easy to manage, easy to engage secure model for Enterprise working. Enterprises now can choose a phone based on features and also allow BYOD, once enrolled into the Enterprise, IT managers can control which applications are used and how they are used with some fine grain control. Enterprises can deploy their own applications out without the need for store ingestion and if the device is removed from the Enterprise, all settings, applications and secure data are wiped from the unit. Other Enterprise features such as VPN round off the offering nicely.

Nice Bits – Windows Phone 8.1 now has the ability to project the screen either by Miracast (630 and 1520 only) or via USB to another display or projector to allow Demonstrations Smile

Windows 8

Windows 8.1 Update 1 (8.1.1 to upset Microsoft Marketing people) is now available for developers and next week for Mortals and I urge you to get it on your machine as soon as possible. Many people were saying this is how Windows 8 should have been launched, I kind of see their point as it is very rounded but I don’t think Microsoft could have ended up directly with 8.1.1 without 8.

The changes are varied but the most noticeable is the support for right mouse click to get context menus, yes they are back. close X on windows store apps is understandable but i think a mistake

The ability to go straight to the desktop again I think is actually a retro step but ….

For enterprises a new Enterprise compatibility mode (IE8 mode to you and me) is now available to help enterprises move forward.

A final nod is that Store applications can now be pinned to the desktop task bar.

Xbox One

The announcements on Xbox One were for the future but were mainly around the final push to synchronise the Microsoft Platforms.

Universal Applications

So this is the big one, updates to Visual Studio 2013 Update 2(RC) allows developers to jointly target Windows Phone and Windows in the same project, with amazing changes to the base controls one app can be built for both or have specific code/Xaml for each platform.

Now that Windows Phone supports AppX we are now able to deliver one application for Phone and Windows ( you might not want to in all cases )


So A great day and a great future for the Windows platform, now looking forward to Day 2 and the joys of Azure and Visual Studio.







Black Marble's Azure-based Virtual Pet Sanctuary

I am pleased to announce details of the Black Marble Virtual Pet Sanctuary!

It has been estimated that in the EU alone over 2.1 billion virtual pets/avatars or other cyber creatures, are rotting away due to neglect.

Soon to be enacted EU Regulations, the European Virtual Pet Law (2014) about the long term treatment and care of virtual pets, will mean software manufacturers and users will have a legal obligation to provide long term care of their virtual pets long after they have finished 'playing' with them.

Today we are announcing our Black Marble Virtual Pet Sanctuary, hosted in Microsoft's Premier Cloud Solution, Windows Azure, and on the 31st April, when the Law comes into effect, you will be able to sign up to our services, connect your device, and save your beloved cyber pets from certain deletion.

Learning the Microsoft Platform Succinctly

The good people over at SyncFusion have taken it upon themselves to provide the Microsoft development community with a great set of books to bootstrap you into different Microsoft development technologies.


To find these little gems head over to

you have to register but since doing so i have had no email or hassle from SyncFusion unlike other “free” resources on the net.

Here are some of the Titles

Visual Studio 2013 Succinctly

Windows Phone 8 Development Succinctly

TypeScript Succinctly

WPF Succinctly

Windows Store Apps Succinctly

Data Structures 1&2 Succinctly (well not so Succinctly, but such an important subject I think it is fair enough)

F# Succinctly

and there are more on GIT etc.

SyncFusion have gone to a lot of effort in this and the quality of the books is very good, I would most definitely check them out.

hopefully they will do one on secure coding soon as well












F# Compiler as a Service

With the interesting move for compilers to become services, it is a natural and welcome follow on that F# is now available as a compiler as a service.

The Package contains

  • F# Language tokenizer – tokenizer service
  • Processing untyped AST service
  • Using editor (IDE) services – components needed to build an IDE
  • Hosted F# interactive - allows F# to be embedded as a scripting language
  • Hosting the F# compiler

if F# is your thing (and it should be) or if you are interested in Compiler as a Service as a general idea, you really should check it out.

F# Compiler Services is available from Github here