Posts Tagged ‘Students’

Resources for Game Developers

September 28, 2012 3 comments

As we’re doing game development labs at colleges and universities, I wanted to share some of the awesome free resources that are available to game developers.



Metro Studio – 600 free metro style icons from the cool folks at SyncFusion.

The Noun ProjectHundreds (if not thousands) of icons for just about anything you can think of, all free. These icons will download in Scalable Vector format (SVG) and will need to be converted to PNG at the size of 48 x 48 pixels. Either InkScape or Expression Design can be used to do the conversion.

BRKR Design Icon Pack – This pack costs $20 but it includes 350 of the most commonly used icons already sized and ready to go. This single package includes all 350 icons for Windows Phone, iPhone and Android.



Every Stock PhotoSearch thousands of images, many of which can be used in apps and games.  Click on advanced search, then click the Licenses dropdown and check ONLY the boxes for Public Domain and Custom Free.  When you find the image you’re looking for, be sure to follow the search result back to the original site and read the license to make sure it can be used in your application.


Sound Effects

Soundjay – Hundreds of sound effects that are licensed for use in apps and games. Most (if not all) of these sound effects should play as-is on Windows Phone. You can use a tool like Audacity to convert any sounds that don’t play into ones that do.

FreesoundThousands of free sound effects. Carefully check the license for each sound effect because not all sound effects can be used in commercial applications. Some sound effects may also require you to give attribution (credit) to the author in your application. Not all sound effects on this site can be played on Windows Phone. You can use a tool like Audacity to convert sounds that don’t play into ones that do.

Audio Micro has a free music and sounds tab on their home page.



Incompetech – Hundreds of high quality songs available for use in apps and games. They’re even organized by genre, "feel" and keyword. Many of these songs require attribution (listing in credits) or can be purchased for royalty-free use.

FreePD – Another great resource for finding free music in the public domain. Their FAQ states that all of the songs listed are available for use without attribution. Double-check that the page shows "CC Zero" at the bottom.



Open Clipart (.org) – Hundreds if  not thousands of free images, most don’t even require attribution!

HasGraphics Sprites – 10 sprite sets free for commercial use. Some require attribution, some do not.

Video Game Sprites – Actual sprites from original games, not able to use in commercial games

Lost Garden – Game graphics, asks for acknowledgement.

Open Game Art – Graphics, sprites, icons and sounds. Asks for donations.


CGTextures – Amazing, pretty exhaustive collection of tillable textures that can be used for free in commercial games. Attribution is appreciated but not required.

HasGraphics Textures – Two large tile sets free for commercial use.


How Students Can Get Windows 8

September 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Since I’ll be doing a number of Windows 8 application and gaming events at colleges, I thought it would be good to put together a quick blog post on how students can get and install Windows 8.


Options for Obtaining Windows 8


Windows 8 can be obtained in two ways:


90 Day Trial

Anyone can download a free 90 day trial of Windows 8 enterprise from MSDN. However, be aware that the trial can not be converted to a regular licensed copy of Windows. This means that once the trial is over, the user will need to reinstall their old OS or install another licensed copy. This option is only recommended for testing in a virtual environment.


DreamSpark Premium

Many academic institutions are enrolled in DreamSpark premium, which provides faculty and students access to an extended catalog of Microsoft software – including Windows 8. There are two ways an institution can provide students access to their software benefits:


1. An administrator for the institution can download software from the MSDN portal, burn DVDs and generate product keys as needed.

2. The institution can provide a free self-service web store for students to manage their own software.


The second option is desirable for most institutions, and since it’s free many campuses are already signed up. Students can check to see if their campus has web store and sign using the Institution Access page.

The ELMS WebStore allows students to browser for software and download it in just a few clicks.


If the institution is new to DreamSpark Premium and needs help accessing their software benefits or creating a WebStore, they can view the Software Deployment Guide for help.



Options for Installing Windows 8


There are three main options for installing Windows 8. The table below outlines the benefits and considerations with each approach:




Replace the main OS
The user upgrades to Windows 8 or performs a new installation of Windows 8

Windows running directly on the hardware provides the best performance. Windows 8 and Windows Store applications can be graphics intensive. This option gives the OS direct access to the video card and other system resources.

Only Windows 7 can be upgraded to Windows 8 and keep applications installed. Upgrading from another OS or performing a “clean” install will require all applications to be reinstalled.

Dual Boot to VHD
This option installs Windows 8 into a single file on a Windows 7 machine. At boot the user can choose to start Windows 7 or Windows 8.

This option allows Windows 8 to run directly on the hardware, but keeps the existing operating system and all programs intact.

Because the entire OS is installed into single file, there is a minor performance penalty for reading and writing to disk. This option is not recommended for systems with less than 40 GB free before Windows 8 is installed.

Virtual Machine
Windows 8 is installed into a virtual machine using VirtuaBox or any other VM software.

Virtual Machines are the quickest and easiest way to get Windows 8 running with the least amount of impact to the host machine.

Performance in a virtual machine option will be considerably slower than with the other two options. Graphics acceleration is not supported and access to USB devices like thumb drives can be problematic or even missing in the virtual machine.


Replace the Main OS

This is one of the easiest ways to install Windows 8. Simply boot to a DVD or USB Drive that has the Windows 8 files on it. If you’ve downloaded Windows 8 from MSDN or DreamSpark Premium you’ll probably have a file with the .iso extension at the end. This is a DVD image and it needs to be burned onto a DVD or loaded onto a bootable thumb drive. The easiest way to accomplish this is using the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. It’s a wizard that will walk you through all the steps.




Once the DVD or USB drive is created, simply put it into the machine and reboot. You may need to change the boot order in the BIOS (usually F1 or Del) or you may need to choose a temporary boot device (usually F9 or F12) for the machine to boot to the new media.


Dual Boot to VHD

The process for setting up dual boot is not difficult, but it does require typing in commands at the command prompt and it’s important to follow each step carefully. The most important step is making sure to select the drive that represents the VHD file during setup. Otherwise, you might accidentally overwrite Windows 7.

The steps for dual booting Windows 8 are too long to fit into this document, but they’re explained in great detail with plenty of pictures at


Virtual Machine

The steps for installing Windows 8 into a Virtual Machine vary depending on the virtual machine software you use. One popular option is Oracles VirtualBox and the steps for installing Windows 8 into VirtualBox can be found at The instructions were written for Windows 8 Release Preview but they also work with Windows 8 RTM.

Categories: Cool, Development Tags: ,

169 Apps in 24 Hours

February 13, 2012 Leave a comment

As a Mobile Evangelist a big part of my job is trying to figure out how to get people excited about building apps. My team and I have tried a number of strategies this year ranging from training to creating tools and even hosting our own events. Unfortunately, we just weren’t reaching the numbers we were hoping for and I had this nagging feeling we were missing something important. Over the holidays I worked with some really smart people to come up with a few ideas that resulted in 169 apps in 24 hours. This blog post is the story of how.

uccer31uBack in October I bumped into Paul DeCarlo at Houston Techfest. I had originally met Paul a year earlier when I was teaching Windows Phone development at U of H and Paul was completing his masters. In the time that followed, Paul actually started his own side business selling applications in the Windows Phone marketplace and business was good. I had an idea that I wanted to do something with students, but I didn’t quite know what. While we were talking at Techfest I found out that Paul was the Microsoft Campus Rep, Asus Campus Rep and Rockstar Campus Rep all at the same time while he was at U of H. He told me about these crazy LAN parties where they would bring in Rockstar and bands and stay up all night. I knew there was an idea there, but I didn’t know what it was.

mrka0cqvFast forward to December and Paul was reaching out to me because he had a friend he wanted to nominate as the new Microsoft Rep at U of H. That friend was Rick Gentry and I was able to help get Rick nominated and hired in that same month. About that time I was talking with Deanna Robison about our marketing budget and about trying to excite students. We kicked around the idea of buying a bunch of $10 Amazon cards as a way to entice students to build their first app. She also knew we were getting a bunch of phones. We didn’t know how many but we liked the idea of giving students a phone for every three apps they got into marketplace.

On a Tuesday night in early February, Paul and Rick and I all got together at a small Vietnamese place on Bellaire. I got Microsoft to pay for the meal and the three of us brainstormed for several hours about how we could do something big at U of H. We knew we wanted apps and we knew we wanted to include as many people as possible. Going on the assumption of cards and phones, we identified three different “groups” of students that might attend our event. The first group were Sr. CS students who had development experience and just wanted the challenge. The second group were actually business students who didn’t have strong development skills but were interested in being able to say they had put an app in the marketplace. The third group were Jr. CS students that were somewhere in between. Meaning they had some development experience but were new to coding and maybe hadn’t seen .NET before.

SplashFor each group of students we tried to identify what we could do to make that group a success. For the Sr. students we thought it’d just be best for me to sit with them and answer all their questions. Easy enough. For the business students we thought it would be great to teach them AppMaker. We knew we needed something different for the Jr. developers, but what? Something that could take a little experience and turn it into a lot. Then I remembered the awesome starter kits people like Chris Koening and Danilo Diaz had been creating and I put together a Resources for New Phone Developers blog post that ended up getting used at BAOC and other student events. One starter kit in particular really stood out to us, and that starter kit was the Social Viewer template by Nick Randolph. Paul had recently started the basics of his Just a Fan apps on the Social Viewer template and Social Viewer had far more functionality than AppMakr ever would. More importantly, we had access to the Social Viewer Source. We knew we wanted to leverage it but we didn’t know how.

January ended up being a busy month. I reached out to Nick Randolph with the idea of creating a UI configuration tool for his Social Viewer template. The idea was to make Social Viewer as easy as AppMakr. Nick was very supportive and gave me access to everything I needed. But then things started to fall apart when I found out that our Windows Phone hackathon was going to be competing for students against an Android hackathon scheduled at the same time. We decided it would be best to either lead the Android event or follow it so that we weren’t competing. But the Android event was scheduled for the third week of February and pushing ours out into March would be too late. It would have to be in early February, and to make matters worse, new rules were coming down that required the use of dev tools at our events (meaning AppMakr would not be allowed). We did manage to get an exception for AppMakr since the event was already scheduled, but we knew we needed a strategy that would be successful without it going forward.

On January 26th, Paul, Rick and I stood in front of a room full of Cougar CS students at U of H. Paul gave a presentation on the amount of money he’d made creating apps for Windows Phone and we talked about why having a smaller marketplace is actually better for developers. 000We closed by announcing the Windows Phone hackathon and, thanks to Deanna, $1,000.00 worth of Amazon cards and 10 phones. We knew we could get more phones and cards, so we hinted that there would be something going on past the event too. All of the students seemed interested and even suggested we plan it for a full 24 hours. The three of us went home excited that night. Rick created a flyer and I started work on a super secret project.

Two weeks later AppFactory was born and I let Paul know what I’d been working on.


AppFactory is, for all intents and purposes, a glorified MSBuild script with a pretty front-end. It’s purpose in life is to take template projects (or starter kits) and turn them into factories of applications. Paul had actually a simplified version of AppFactory for his Top Music Videos and “Just a Fan” suite of applications. Paul wasn’t alone. Anyone who’s built a company based on multiple applications on a similar codebase knows this problem. You start from a template, add custom logic, bring in your data, sprinkle in artwork, reconfigure services, build the solution, rinse and repeat. This problem has been solved before, but it’s always been solved uniquely for one project and never shared for others to use. And that, specifically, is what I wanted to fix with AppFactory. I think Paul was a little surprised and shocked to see AppFactory, but he realized right away what it meant for him. It meant he could get out of managing his build process and focus specifically on the part he cared about – his IP. In less than 24 hours Paul had completely replaced his custom build process with AppFactory. 24 hours after that he had used AppFactory to rebuild all 300 Just a Fan Applications. AppFactory would come back later to help with our event.

On February 10th, Paul Rick and I met for dinner on the U of H campus just before our hackathon. We had Asian food, as seems to be our tradition, and we talked about how we thought the night would go. I personally expected about 25 students and I expected to lose half of them before the night was over. We knew we’d start with Rick giving a presentation on AppMakr and follow it up with Paul giving an overview of the Social Viewer template. In a last minute stroke of genius we thought it would be cool for Paul to use a football team as the subject for his Social Viewer talk. Then, if we had time later, I could do a walkthrough of converting that to a suite of applications using AppFactory. We didn’t discuss the number of apps we thought we’d end up with, but I remember thinking I’d be happy to get 30 or 40 by the time we were done.

At 6:00 PM we walked into a computer lab packed wall-to-wall with students.

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There were more than 50 people waiting to get started, and there were so many unexpected attendees that we had to overflow some of them into the next room.

Because we had so many people that had never done Windows Phone or .NET before, I started with a 20 minute overview of Visual Studio and Expression Blend. After running to the gas station to get us some ice, Rick followed up with his presentation on AppMakr. Not long after that Paul did his presentation on Social Viewer. It was awesome.

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Rick, being the Rockstar promoter, got everyone hopped up on caffeine and within three hours we’d already given away our first phone.

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The second phone went about 30 minutes later and the pace just kept up like that the rest of the night.


I knew a 24 hour event would be tough, even for college students hopped up on Caffeine. Luckily I had thought of that ahead of time and my awesome boss Nathan approved budget for food and for an XBOX. I brought my own copy of Rock Band and I also brought my own personal RC helicopters and RC trucks to drive around. Together with some loud music between Rock Band sessions, these distractions proved to be just enough to keep everyone going all night long. Though we did still lose probably 50% of the attendees at night, keeping 25 college students interested in anything for 24 hours is no small feat. 🙂 Here’s a photo of us playing Rock Band at 4:00 AM.


About an hour after that picture was taken I was given a special surprise. Paul had been taking notes when he gave his Social Viewer presentation and he noticed a team of four guys were really paying attention. Entirely on his own, and without me knowing it, Paul sat down with that team and walked them through using AppFactory to take his football sample and turn it into a suite of 32 applications for the NFL. Those guys showed up with very little programming experience and left with $320, a phone for each of them and the start of a new business. It doesn’t get any better than that.

When 6:00 PM rolled around on Saturday I was surprised at how lively everyone was; even me. I felt like I could have stayed a few more hours (and part of me really wanted to since apps were still getting submitted at a regular rate) but luckily I had just kicked of AppTastic with U of H allowing students to continue submitting apps even after the event was over.

When I finally sat down and really looked at the spreadsheet I couldn’t believe my eyes. I checked and double-checked to make sure there wasn’t a copy-and-paste mistake. Did we really make 169 apps in 24 hours? We did. Not only that but I had created a column called ‘Is AppMaker’ to keep an eye on how we were doing with custom dev. Out of 169 apps, 104 were custom code. That means that only 38% of the applications were AppMakr. Many of the students started with AppMakr to get something done quickly and then moved on to custom code. Lots of the AppMakr apps were quality work too, like the Recipes app and Adventure Time.



All in all we consumed more than $300 worth of pizza, 36 kolaches, a dozen doughnuts, 2 crates of Rockstar and 12 liters of softdrink. We gave away $1,500.00 worth of Amazon gift cards and I still owe $180 more. We gave away 10 phones and I still owe 31! This has been one helluva learning experience, and I hope I get to do it again.


Facebook Event Page – Lots of great commentary, especially the oldest pages.

Photos of the Event – Photos shown in this article and many more.

App Photos – Photos of 48 custom applications written at the event.

Adventure TimeAnchor DragAngle ConverterAvoid the BallsBlock ShooterBucketheadCall Heads or TailsCard Chance GameCircleClickCompatibilityTestDrummer BasicEden EvolutionFartAppGobble MonsterHangman BasicLength Unit ConverterLights out!!!Linux Cheat SheetLottery Algorithm S2Lottery AlgorithmMachine HeadMario Sound BoardMolar MassNerd VisionPeriodic TablePong ClonePortal Sound BoardQibla BasicRandom Sound AppRiver Flow USGS (1)River Flow USGS (2)Rock Paper ScissorsScreen Name GeneratorSpam My FriendSuper TimerTampa Bay BuccaneersTF2 101The Surrealist Compliment GeneratorThink Fast!Tic-Tac-ToeTip Calculator 2Tip CalculatorTurtle RaceTwoPlayerFastClickVoice RecorderWhat's fordinnerWp TimerZombie Savior

Free Kit for Teaching Students Mobile Development

October 25, 2011 Leave a comment

This year my team and I had the opportunity to introduce students at several colleges to Windows Phone development. After delivering the course several times and after having students and faculty alike both ask for copies of the materials, it became apparent that I needed to share this kit more broadly. For now I’m sharing it on my blog until we find a more permanent home for it.

This kit should serve as a solid starting point for teaching mobile development to anyone with an introductory knowledge of computer programming. Each session in this course lasts between three to four hours and consists of presentations, live demos and hands-on labs. Inside the archive you will find a document titled Course Overview and Agenda which outlines the course, lab machine configuration and the topics covered in each session. There is also an accompanying document titled Presenter Notes which includes notes and links to videos that can train the trainer to deliver this course.


You can download the entire course here (


Sessions and Agenda

Day 1



Overview of Windows Phone (live demo)



Marketplace overview

Developer portal overview

  • Where they go to learn
  • Where they go to register
  • Where they go to submit apps
  • Where they go to track sales

DreamSpark overview



Live ID signup

DreamSpark signup

AppHub signup



Intro to AppMakr



Build an app in AppMaker



Test app in emulator



Publish app to marketplace



Hello World (live walkthrough)

Day 2



Intro to Windows Phone development with Silverlight

  • Dev Platform Overview (Silverlight, XNA)
  • Brief discussion of controls
  • Navigation
  • Web Browser
  • App Bar
  • Launchers and Choosers
  • Accelerometer
  • Location



Lab Time

  • Navigation and Controls
  • Using Panorama and Pivot
  • Launchers and Choosers
  • Accessing Devices

Day 3



Tiles and Notifications



Designing applications with Blend (interactive)



Lab Time

  • Push Notifications

Day 4 (Game Development)



Intro to Game Development with Silverlight

  • Layout System
  • Procedural Animations
  • Sound Effects
  • Physics



Lab Time

  • Basketball
  • Tic-Tac-Toe
  • Procedural Animation

Day 4 (Advanced Application Development)



Advanced Application Development

  • Application Lifecycle
  • Fast Application Switching
  • Alarms and Reminders
  • Background Agents



Lab Time

  • Fast Application Switching
  • Creating Reminders
  • Adding Multitasking
Categories: Development, Mobile Tags: