Back in the Saddle

After many months travelling and spending a lot of time planning, I have now got many posts backed up to send, I am currently touching up and posting my back log.

so expect to see a flurry of posts over the next week or so



IT Pro New Year’s Honours List 2015

The lovely people in the IT Pro team have announced their IT Pro Honours list and I am privileged to be on it.

A great set of professionals and Me and Rik.

Me an IT Pro Smile who would have thought.

I suddenly feel the urge to help Rik fix his laptop Winking smile.

Seriously there is a steady merge between Dev and IT pro in the DevOPS world and what a great world to be in.

again great thanks to the IT Pro team for their consideration.


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.

Microsoft Mathematics 2013 for Word and OneNote

Every now and again I post about the great tooling for kids and geeks that Microsoft product, the latest update in this set is the Microsoft Mathematics 2013 update for Word and OneNote.

The add in allows you to

• Compute standard mathematical functions, such as roots and logarithms
• Compute trigonometric functions, such as sine and cosine
• Find derivatives and integrals, limits, and sums and products of series
• Perform matrix operations, such as inverses, addition, and multiplication
• Perform operations on complex numbers
• Plot 2-D graphs in Cartesian and polar coordinates
• Plot 3-D graphs in Cartesian, cylindrical, and spherical coordinates
• Solve equations and inequalities
• Calculate statistical functions, such as mode and variance, on lists of numbers
• Factor polynomials or integers
• Simplify or expand algebraic expressions

all from with in word and OneNote

Get it Here


Driving Windows 8 for Developers with the Keyboard

For most developers the ability to drive applications with just the keyboard is as much instinctive as it is productive and Windows 8 allows it. Following on from my previous post this post covers how to navigate and use the touch interface of Windows 8 with the Keyboard Smile

The key to effective Windows 8 keyboard mastery is the the Windows key, the Windows key will bring you back to the start screen and act as a short cut to most Windows 8 key (groan) features. The short version is navigate with the arrow keys, Windows Key +Z or the List Key will display the app bar and return complete the action.

Start Screen Navigation

On the start screen UP,DOWN,LEFT,RIGHT allows navigation as you would expect and return opens a tile. Importantly Spacebar or the List Key (looks like a drop down list) selects an item and you can move about selecting items until you want to act, Tab then moves the selection to the Action Bar to set the tile size,unpin from start, , uninstall, open new window and All Items.

If the application is a Desktop application you also get the options to Run As Administrator, Open file location and pin/unpin from task bar.

Start an Application

The quickest way is just to type the name of the application, this actually starts search charm in the application context, but what you get is a very fast way to start applications.

Application and Screen Control

The biggest issue using the Keyboard is screen control, but the simple application of Win+. allows left and right snap view and using Win + Tab to cycle through the current Metro applications (the desktop counts as one application) or Alt+Tab to step through all of the applications

Shutting Down

On the start screen tab will select the user icon which allows logout, or use Win+I for settings and select power from there. I pin a shutdown button to my Desktop Tab. I will follow up on this in a later post

Key Summary

I have split the key Summary into Essential the essential keys are key combinations you NEED to know and Nice to know

Essential Keys (new)


Win Toggles between the start and the current application
Win + C Charms Menu
Win + I Settings ( Current Application, Volume,Wi-Fi and Power )
Win + X Start Menu
Win + D Show the Windows Desktop
Win + Z or List Key Shows the App Bar
Win + . (full stop) Snaps the current application to the right side of the screen. (+shift for left) Keep pressing . to cycle left right then center

Essential Keys (Windows 8 and Windows 7)


Win + L Locks Windows
Win + Tab Displays the current Running Applications, repeated tabs cycle through the Applications
Win + R Opens the Run Dialog (Run application)
Win + P Selects the Second Screen (projector) mode
Win + Left/Right/Up/Down Dock the current Desktop windows left/right or maximise/minimize
Win + <number> Runs the position <number> application on the Task Bar

Useful Keys (new)


Win + O Locks device orientation
Win + D Switches to the Traditional Desktop
Win + H Share Charm Panel
Win + K Devices Charm Panel
Win + F File Search
Win + J Swaps focus between snapped applications

Useful keys (Windows 8 and Windows 7)


Win + P Projector view switch between single/dual monitor
Win + E Launch explorer
Windows key and + or – Zoom in/out

In summary you can fully drive Windows 8 from the desktop, try it!


Windows 8 Application submission error 4.1

I am just pushing applications through into the Windows 8 Marketplace. On checking the progress of an application it had the word “Failed”, being unfamiliar with this word I looked it up and it turns out to be some form of non success. Rushing to find out why this was the case I was presented with

Your app doesn’t meet requirement 4.1. Learn more

hummm, the basis of this error is apparently my failure to provide notification and opt in of sharing personal information, hold on a minute my app is a game which hold NO user information whatsoever.

After some digging it turns out that the project had “Use Internet” turned on, which it turns out Microsoft has deemed to mean that connecting to the internet is the same as sharing personal information…..

so in summary, if you need internet access you need to provide a public privacy policy, if not turn it off. Microsoft needs to provide better terminology and notes on errors.


Boost your Windows 8 C++ application

As an out of band Windows 8 post for many of us C++ is somewhat a hidden shame, but not really a shame just hidden out of sight while we dream of closer to the metal coding.

With the joys of Windows 8, C++ is once again back to the fore, I thought a couple of notes on how to get things moving might help

Boostis regarded as one of the best written and comprehensive libraries for C++

covering areas such as Math and Numeric, String processing (what library would be complete without), Generics, Algorithms and more

The only downside is it is a collection of very useful code but like all good libraries you will need to learn it.

Boost is fully useable in Windows 8


Zune HD (still going)

On the long road to Windows Phone 7, Zune and Zune HD laid a solid foundation, now in many peoples eyes these really excellent devices have been side-lined. I must admit being somewhat fond of my(now my daughters) Zune HD.

But this week a new set of free games and tools have been launched for the Zune HD adding just a bit more life to the platform.

Go to your Zune Desktop, plug your Zune in and look for the new apps and games

they include

  • Finger Paint
  • Calendar
  • Trash Throw
  • Slider Puzzle
  • ColorSpill
  • Splatter Bug
  • Vine Climb
  • Decoder Ring
  • Tug-O-War

Zune HD was only sold in the US, so if by any chance you are using a non US pc, just change your location to US before starting Zune Desktop and reset after (no system restart needed)

I know it is a forlorn hope but I do wish Microsoft keep the Zune Brand


Windows Phone Toolkit(update)

A new toolkit for Windows Phone 7 has been released on Coding4Fun. The toolkit includes Controls,Converters and Helpers.

(update) Get it here

With Controls such as

  • About Prompt
  • Input Prompt
  • Progress Overlay
  • Round Button
  • Round Toggle Button
  • Memory Counter
  • TimeSpan Picker

I suspect that most WP7 developers should look at this kit