Is Your Website Ready for Windows 8 and IE10?

I had to pay my property tax this month. I have been trying for a week at the county website www.LACountyPropertyTax.com. I got consistently a runtime error- day after day. After a week I started to doubt what was happening- even the government cannot afford that much inefficiency. I decided to attempt to visit the site from another machine. The reality is- if it wasn’t about taxes, I wouldn’t have done the effort.

On my Windows 8 machine and browser IE10 I get the following runtime error screen. I tried to debug with F12 developer tools.

A runtime error is a software or hardware problem that prevents Internet Explorer from working correctly. Runtime errors can be caused if a website uses html code that is not compatible with the web browser functionality.

On the Windows 8 machine I tried to debug in IE10 requesting the IE10 Compatibility View.

On Windows 7 IE9 I don’t get any error. I was able to pay my taxes.

There are many Windows 8 machines and IE10 browsers out there.
Is your website ready?

FAQ for New Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 Developers

This blog post will be updated often so don’t be shy to come back.

What do I need to develop Windows 8 applications?
You need a Windows 8 machine and Visual Studio 2012 (it can be the express edition).

What do I need to develop Windows Phone 8 applications?
You need a Windows 8 Pro 64-bit machine, Visual Studio 2012 and Windows Phone 8.0 SDK

What do I need to develop Azure applications with Mobile Services?
You need the Windows Azure SDK and Windows Azure Account (first 90 days are free).

What do I need to develop apps that use Windows Live ID Authentication?
You need to download and install the Live SDK.

What do I need to develop apps that use Bing Maps?
You need to download and install the Bing SDK.

What FREE tool can I use for version control?
For teams of 5 people or less use TFService.

How do I publish my Windows 8 app to the Store?
You need a Windows developer account. $48 per year of free with MSDN subscription.

How do I publish my Windows Phone app to the Store?
You need a Windows Phone developer account. $99 per year or free with MSDN subscription.

How much does it cost to use Azure services?
Here is a link with pricing information for Azure.

Where do I find Windows 8 samples?
The most samples you will find is at dev.windows.com.

Where do I start if I’m new to Windows 8 development?
I would recommend the Hands-on-labs for Windows 8 applications.

What is the link for the Windows Phone store?
You can check the windows phone store at http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store

What language do I use to write Windows 8 apps?
You can choose between:
– HTML5 (Java Script and CSS);
– XAML, with code-behind in C++, C#, or Visual Basic;
– Native C++ and HLSL (to take full advantage of graphics hardware);

What is the link for the Windows Phone developer resources?
Go to http://dev.windowsphone.com/

What software should I use for version control?
Even if you are one person team, you should use TFS (Team Foundation Service). Unfortunately the TFS integration is not available on Visual Studio Express. If you are using Visual Studio Pro, TFS is free for teams of up to 5 people tfs.visualstudio.com

The //Build conference 2012

The Build conference is the biggest Microsoft developer conference. It’s famous for the fact that every attendee gets the newest and the coolest hardware. Last year it was the Samsung tablet (before being available on the market). This year it’s a 32GB Surface RT, 100GB of Sky Drive space and a Nokia Lumia 920 (not available on the market yet). Microsoft is giving developers an edge so they can bring the technology to live.

I was extremely lucky and very fortunate to attend the Build conference this year. It was in Redmond, Seattle on the campus of Microsoft. It sounds extremely cool and like a dream come true but the campus is just not made for an event this size. When you get to use the portable toilet before the keynote you kind of realize the problem.

The event had about 2,500 attendees and the online registration lasted only 50 minutes. The developers didn’t need convincing to pay $2,000 to attend the conference. The first 500 (the first 2min of the registration) got $500 discount. In my calculations with some of the expo sponsors that’s around $5,000,000 sold out in an hour without any marketing.

Even with all the popularity not everything is perfect in the World of //Build. The experience started with event registration. The Build conference barely has a website www.buildwindows.com . In August when the conference was announced the site consisted of one web form and that was it- no ‘about us’, no session catalog, no conference directory. We managed to register but 9 out of 10 registrants experienced website errors, including me.

The conference approached and we still didn’t have a real website. We received an email with bare bone schedule for the conference. Later the same was posted on the build website- it’s a one page website. I find it funny that we are talking about a developer conference and probably any one of us would’ve build the website or the app for free if we could’ve gotten a free ticket to Build :). I really wonder how many people are actually working on organizing the conference?

There were offers like a hackathon and a dinner with the Windows Phone team sent by email- any RSVP was done through an email, no website, no app. Not much is scalable- space was filling out very fast and if you saw the email 2h after it was sent, you were too late. Two days before the conference we still didn’t have a session catalog (I mean not one session listed). One day before the conference the session catalog was released on the channel 9 website. It was great they gave us a print out of the catalog when we were in line to register for the conference. I had more than enough time to choose my sessions when I waited 1.5h to register. Yup, the line for registration was ridiculous.

The sessions were great- truly honestly great and everybody can watch them for free on channel 9. I’ll be watching them myself (in the late evenings) as I spent most of my time at the hackathon. The channel 9 website is a true gift to developers. I should give credit to the organizers for posting the 150 videos pretty fast on channel 9. Great job!

The keynotes were awesome. It felt so good to have people like Steve Ballmer talking to us. It’s a real religion to most of us to come to the holy land and to spend a week between a crowd of brilliant people. Looking back, I would tell you this is probably the highest concentration of high IQ I have ever been in contact with. Unfortunately people were not thinking to network until the last session ended.

After the last session there was a phenomenon – people were starting a conversation everywhere and about anything. Unfortunately it was too late. Microsoft tried to make sure we are out of the campus as soon as possible. There was no hanging around the buildings after the end of the last session- you needed to be on your way.

When I have gone to other conferences the breakfast and lunch time has been the usual time to talk to new people. This time was different. The meal time was a pain. You had to walk to a big tent outside (it rained the whole week) and the food was not what I expected (Probably I’m spoiled from the TechEd food choices. The SharePoint conference meals are like a presidential gala compared to the Build meals). So after the first breakfast and portable toilet experience I kind of avoided the breakfast on campus- and ate breakfast at the hotel. The lunches I had to do but I never got to meet new people at lunch.

There was a Mixer on Monday night for the lucky people who got to finish their registration on time. I went and it was funny. I walk in and head for the different tables. In the sea of male faces I see a beautiful woman smiling at me. The biggest smile you can imagine- I smile back. We sit together and she tells me: I’m so happy you are here. There are no women and the guys don’t talk to me, they only talk amongst themselves. OK, that’s funny (especially because she is a very attractive woman and a speaker at the conference). So we have an interesting thing happening- maybe women not only get paid less but get send to conferences less as well.

The transportation… oh my. For the first time I go to a conference, I register for a hotel that’s on the conference website registration list and I need a rental car. Even at the conference party I had to take a taxi back from a different hotel. I don’t know why you list a hotel as a conference hotel if you don’t offer transportation to the hotel.

There were breaks of 45 minutes between the sessions which meant a lot of time wasted in transportation between building 33 and 92.

The popular sessions were not so easy to attend as well. Part of the problem of not having a website with the session catalog and people not building their schedules in advance is you don’t know which sessions are going to be the most popular. The most popular sessions were not in the biggest rooms. I had such a frustrating experience of being kicked out of session at the last minute because 20 of us were sitting on the stairs and the staff realized that’s a problem the moment the session started.

I didn’t go to the Beer Fest because I was at the hackathon. I heard I haven’t missed much and people were posting photos on Twitter of a deserted tent. The Beer really doesn’t make it a Fest- it’s the atmosphere.

The Conference party at the Armory… we spent long time on the bus to Seattle. I actually got to meet some interesting people (but I was an exception to the rule). Somehow developers don’t find it necessary to talk to the person next to them on the bus.

We arrived at our destination at the Armory. I’ve never seen so many bored people in one place. I know some people came and left after the first drink. It was a big tent looking building with probably 20 fast little bite food stands. The food ranged from junk to ridiculous with several exceptions (there was one sea food that was really nice). And like the whole week experience- for every bite you had to line up and wait sometime up to 10 minutes (for the sea food). I saw many people standing alone and staring at the ceiling. My advice is next time make it a hackathon event. This is concentration of brain power, excited brains that just learn new technologies and are itching to use them. Group them in teams- make them socialize and meet at least 5 new people. Make them brainstorm for some non-profit organizations and come up with brilliant ideas.

One interesting thing I noticed about Build is the high concentration of Europeans. I really love that. It was a truly international conference. The people I met were extremely bright and interesting. I regret not meeting more people. We were all so busy making the best of the knowledge base and learning.

The Expo! There was no expo floor. There were some desks around the session rooms in one of the buildings. Very small selection of sponsors were present and there was not much swag being given. I cannot believe this conference I came home only with one t-shirt!

No hands-on lab. Nothing Nada Zip Zero Zilch.

The Twitter #bldwin was probably my favorite. Build encourages every attendee and speaker to use Twitter. I love it. I met great people on Twitter #bldwin and some of them I met in person. Some of my favorite #bldwin people: ‏@ghowlett2020, @cwoodruff , ‏@noopman , @attilah , @TechMike2kX, @henriksen, @HammadRajjoub, ‏@aafvstam, @mangesnet, @kenstone, @samsabri.

On the last day of Build guess what? There was a Windows 8 and Windows Phone app released! Just in time for the last several sessions. This is truly funny. Duh… we were at THE conference for Windows 8 and Windows 8 Phone apps!

Would I do it again? Of course I would. My reasons? I got gadgets, I got to experience the technologies at the hackathon and I got to spend time around brilliant people.

What technology did I get excited about? Windows Azure mobile services and (Windows Phone 8) NFC.

Was it a good conference? Somehow Microsoft didn’t have any problem getting the people together- presenters and attendees but it looked as little organization went into it. Do you blame them? If it takes you 50 minutes to get 5 million dollars out of 2,500 people with one form website and no efforts to write even a page about the event- you know you can get away with anything.
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Other blog posts on //build/ 2012:
A blog post by Dennis Vroegop “It’s just badly organized, something I am not really used to in my 20 years of experience at Microsoft events.”
A blog post by Dennis Doomen “Whether or not this trip to Build 2012 in Redmond was worth the time and money”

Participating in the Big Build Hackathon

If you ask me what will stay with me from the Build conference 2012 (Redmond / Seattle), I’ll tell you definitely the hackathon. I would give away my new Surface ( I got it as a present from the Build conference) just to do the hackathon again.

There are so many things that made this event memorable but I would like to start with a few that could’ve been better. The communication was so minimum that it hurt us. I wish I knew before I registered it’s not an 8 hour event but a 5 day event. I wish every participant at Build had a chance to participate. Like everything else at Build 2012 only the fastest and the luckiest got to register. After the registration there was an email with the schedule (3 days before the event). I couldn’t adjust my schedule on the late notice well enough- I missed the first two days because I had already planned my time (yup, the binder full of parties).

My biggest regret is we had no good way to network with people on different teams. I know we were all in the same room but we were all so observed in our own apps and teams. I wish we had our own little Mixer after the competition- I would’ve loved to talk to the other teams and ask questions about their apps. We were competitors the whole time and we should’ve had time to be friends. It was a wasted opportunity for us and for Microsoft to bring us together. I wish there was a tweeter group or something along those lines.

Food was served at the hackathon – all except lunch which was a problem. We wasted a long time walking back and forward to the outside tent with the attendee lunch. I didn’t understand why- it was just a waste of time. On Friday we actually didn’t have lunch because we wanted to see the demos- and by the time the demos ended the lunch tent was closed.

Even that things could’ve been better it was a brilliant event.

Let me tell you about the many things I loved of the event. We were encouraged to team up with people we never met before. I would’ve never believed that that could work but it worked like a charm. It was genius! Our team was originally five people but only three of us kept on going. We had to sacrifice the sessions and beer fest. At the start there were around 45 entries (from teams or individual participants) and most of them didn’t go to sessions, keynotes, parties and worked very long hours (sometimes the whole night). Almost every team had a participants from different countries.

We were given what felt as unlimited resources. There were at least 20 experts- the best of the best Microsoft employees ready to answer any question and guide us to accomplish anything we wished for. We were teamed up with mentors. Our mentor was Paul Batum- a truly impressive Azure mobile services expert. We were not limited to our main mentor- we talked with many of the mentors in the room. And there was email support for the people who worked remotely.

We all took advantage of Team Foundation Service ( tfs.visualstudio.com ). Teams of 5 or less can use TFS on the Cloud for free. It worked great- we all were checking in and checking out the pieces of the project we were working on. I love it!

Looking back I believe these were my mistakes- I didn’t sacrifice my first 2 days, I didn’t trust the team model at the start, I didn’t talk to many people(everybody was just coding) and we should’ve chosen to make a consumer app (not a business app).

There were no rules about what kind of app you should develop and no guidance was given but let me tell you- the apps that ended up being chosen were cool apps, ideas that you haven’t heard about before. We choose to develop too trivial app- a small business expense report system. Talking with other participants we came up with the conclusion That Microsoft is a bit tired of being seen as a business solution- they were looking to see cool consumer apps and these were the apps that were chosen to be demo’d. All apps that won used successfully Azure mobile services and the winning Windows Phone 8 apps used NFC.

There were 3 categories- Windows Azure, Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. All apps needed to be started at the hackathon. The apps were officially judged on:
(34%) Innovative: Is this app meeting an existing need in a new way?
(33%) Applicability: Would this app be useful and appealing to a broad audience?
(33%) Technical Achievement: How difficult was it to build this app?

The prizes were not big (I have seen hackathons with prizes in the 6 digits). The total money won was $10K split between 9 teams (and teams were from 1 to 6 people). The biggest prize for the 1st place winners was the exposure. On Thursday everybody needed to submit their app by email to the first round of judges. 13 apps were chosen to be demoed in front of the celebrity judges. Celebrity judges included people like Scott Hanselman. The exposure to demo in front of the judges helped some people get job offers on the spot.

What we accomplished with our app was to implement the fast and fluid design of Windows 8. We had our screens, charms, contracts implemented. We had Microsoft account authentication (with the Live SDK). We used Azure mobile services and we were successfully writing data from our app to the cloud and displaying it back. We implemented the photo/file picker and the image upload to the cloud. We felt as we had a great app and a strong technical implementation. We didn’t even consider that we will be eliminated before the demo. The idea was reasonable- you submit your expense report (take a picture of the receipt and enter the information) and your boss receives and approves it. We were eliminated silently. We spent a lot of time, we sacrifice sessions and events, we accomplished a lot and I strongly believe we deserved the 3 minutes in front of judges.

The apps that won first place were:

Windows Azure category- the winner is QBranch. A team of 6 people from different countries developed a Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 applications that used Windows Azure mobile services to store data. The app allowed you to have a digital queue for different events or places like DMV. The Windows phone 8 app reads NFC or QR codes to put users on the queue and uses push notifications to alert the user when their turn is up. It is developed in XAML and C#. The windows 8 app is used by the administrator to manage the queue. It is developed in HTML5.

Windows Phone 8 category – the winner is Social Squirrel. I felt this was the Microsoft favorite team and app- two people from Canada. Scott Hanselman offered them a job in the middle of their presentation. The rumor is that this team has already more than 10 apps in the Store. The app uses Facebook API and allows you to play a game and answer quizzes about your Facebook friends. The developers used the accelerometer to allow people to shake the phone and arrange the tiles randomly. NFC was used as well so two phones can communicate by touching. It is developed in XAML and C#.

Windows 8 category – the winner is Crowd Sourced Memories. A team of 4 attendees developed this cool app. At an event like a wedding the guests may use a Windows 8 machine to take pictures, videos and sign a message. All messages and photos are in the Cloud and can be played back in chronological order- even messages that were played back dot by dot as signed. The team mentioned they plan to have a windows phone 8 app and to implement NFC. It is developed in XAML and C#.

The winners have it all. They were interviewed for channel 9 and they truely deserve the fame and the prizes. What amazing work they did!

There is a big open question at the end of the hackathon for my team and most of the other teams. I believe Microsoft needs to help us with the next step. It would be such a waste if we don’t publish our apps to the store. We were encouraged to make teams. Most of the teams are international. How do we publish as a team? There are legal and accounting questions but the answer may be similar for each of our teams. I think this is an important last step that Microsoft should not overlook.

Dan Fernandez was the face of the Build Hackathon and he worked really hard. I suspect he barely slept for the duration of the hackathon. His efforts paid off. We all have memories to treasure and an experience to cherish. We learned a lot and we got inspired. I formed a team with two people that I just met and we created a strong bond. What a joy to see so many masterful developers and bright minds in one place! The experts in the room were phenomenal- extremely smart and knowledgeable Microsoft employees. I wish I had the names of all the mentors to give them credit. I’m so sorry I will miss your names and I only know your faces. Here are the names I know Paul Batum, Josh Holmes, Michael Johnson, Jeremy Foster.