1
2
3
4
5
6

A Simple Twitter Panel in Silverlight

While sitting on the couch last weekend, I had the idea for putting up a Twitter panel on my site - you should see it off to the right. I figured since this is a Silverlight site, that it might be nice to actually have some Silverlight on it. I got the Twitter panel mostly done in 2-3 hours, and ended up using a few Silverlight features I haven't blogged about yet on the site - hence this blog post.

This post contains:

  • Binaries for the Twitter panel so you can use it on your own site
  • Passing in startup parameters from the object embed code
  • A simple reusable Twitter assembly for Silverlight
  • Source code for the Twitter panel
  • Using Fluid UI to animate items added to the ListBox

(click 'read more' to keep reading..)

Awarded Silverlight MVP for 2010!

I am very excited to say that I've been awarded the 2010 Microsoft MVP Award in Silverlight! It is very humbling to now carry the same title as many of my peers from whom I've learned so much - and I still have much to learn from them. Thanks to those of you who've helped me achieve this great accomplishment.

CodingTags: 

Pre-Alpha Videos of My Windows Phone 7 Games in Development

It has been mentioned a few times in the last month or so that if you want a Windows Phone 7 test device, then you need to be showing why you deserve one. Most notably, Brandon Watson has laid out a post showing 2 such examples, and listing 6 suggestions of how to garner the @wp7dev team's notice. Well, I'm going to take those 6 suggestions, and respond to each - because I want a friggin' test device.

1) Get the tools and start building apps.
I am working on 3 games independently, as well as several at IQ.
2) Blog about your development progress. Screenshots and videos help a lot.
See #3
3) Tag posts with "Windows Phone 7 Development" or "wp7dev" so that we, and other developers, can find you.
Windows Phone 7 Posts on SmartyPantsCoding.com
4) Build something which extends the platform and can be used by other developers.
How to use the Facebook Developer Toolkit with Windows Phone 7
My Windows Phone 7 Pivot Control

5) Post videos of your apps running in the emulator to youtube
See new preview videos below (hopefully Vimeo is alright)
6) Register in the Windows Phone Marketplace.
Done.

To put things in context, I had no intention of posting any videos of my WP7 side projects anytime soon. I hope (read: pray) that folks watching these videos understand that both of these games are very much in the pre-alpha / proof-of-concept state at this point, and honestly any sort of feedback at this point would be very premature.

Pre-Alpha Preview Video of Matchingo 2
This first video showing Matchingo 2 is a very rough port of the original Matchingo - this game will be getting a complete frontend overall and hopefully some pretty cool additions. The UI in the video below is 100% temporary.

Pre-Alpha Preview Video of Hungry Castaway
This second video is showing Hungry Castaway, which is in the proof-of-concept stage as well. This is the game I have been working on in both XNA and Silverlight versions, which I've referenced recently. I spent quite some time evaluating Silverlight vs XNA for this game, but I have now chosen XNA and am back to focusing on functionality.

There is a third game I am working on for WP7 as well, however it is way too early to show anything. I also would love to port ImageWind.net to WP7 - but I have to get a better understanding of if such an app can make it through the app approval process. Now that a few of the cats are out of the bag, I guess I better get back to work.. ;)

June's Grab Bag of Fun

The last month or so has been pretty hectic both at work and in my personal life - but rather than make excuses or promise to blog more frequently, I'll instead just post a grab bag of random tidbits I've learned / come across this month.

First Screenshot of the Windows Phone 7 Launch Screen in Landscape


Original screnshot from CNET

Having played with the hacked emulator quite a bit I'd grown concerned at how few apps so far supported landscape orientation - including the main launch screen of the phone. I am pretty sure that this screenshot above is the first shot of the launch screen running landscape, which is nice to see. I am very hopeful that the WP7 team might update their Windows Phone 7 Series UI Design & Interaction Guide to discuss more about landscape orientations, and that more videos or screenshots might come out showing how native apps will handle this orientation.

Some New Understandings about the Visual State Manager in Silverlight
Two of the biggest issues I'd run into using the Visual State Manager was the inability to know when a state transition had completed, and the ability to query the current visual state. Thanks to this month's presentation at the Atlanta Silverlight Meetup by James Chittenden I now know the solution to both of these issues.

It turns out that in Silverlight 3 you actually CAN tell when a visual state transition has completed. I had asked around to several folks about this, so apparently I wasn't the only one in the dark on this ability. It is actually very simple. Supposing that the name of your visual state is 'MyState', attaching a completed event is as simple as attaching a completed event to the relative Storyboard:

MyState.Storyboard.Completed += new EventHandler(Storyboard_Completed);

New in Silverlight 4 is the ability to query the current visual state of your control. Supposing that the name of your visual state group is 'MyVisualStateGroup', you can check the current state like so:

string currentStateName;
if (MyVisualStateGroup.CurrentState != null)
    currentStateName = MyVisualStateGroup.CurrentState.Name;

Windows Phone 7 Development Continues...
Finally, I just wanted to point out that I am still working on Windows Phone 7 applications - both at work, and in my personal time. Brandon Watson and others have recently commented that developer devices will start rolling out in July, and that those who want a test device need to be showing off their work. I hope to post some information as to the initial apps/games I hope to have in the marketplace on launch soon - and if you want an early test device, I suggest you do the same.

Choosing Between Silverlight and XNA for a Windows Phone 7 Game

In my last blog post on XNA for Windows Phone 7 I said that I was working on a game in both Silverlight and XNA, and that if I got a chance to test out performance I would report back. As you can see in the image below, I got a chance to test out my Silverlight game on a real device last week at ReMIX Atlanta - so this post is to cover some insights gained.


me testing my game prototype on a Windows Phone 7 device

First off, if you are trying to get a basic understanding of when to choose between XNA and Silverlight for WP7, you should take a look at this post by Michael Klucher. Michael lays down the basic differences between the two platforms - Silverlight has great controls with great tool support for styling them, and XNA has a crazy fast sprite rendering pipeline which supports full 3D.

But, let's say that you don't need controls for your game, and you don't need 3D - is Silverlight good enough for writing a basic 2D game? After playing with a device briefly last weekend I can tell you the performance of Silverlight on the device looked great - but you will need to analyze the game you're creating a bit before making the ultimate decision.

(click 'read more' to keep reading..)

Creating a Windows Phone 7 XNA Game in Landscape Orientation

Update 07/14/2010: With the latest Beta release of the Windows Phone 7 Tools there is now built in support for landscape games in XNA Game Studio 4.0. I just put it into my landscape game and it works great - it even automatically supports both landscape directions. Check out this article for details.

I've been working on a game in Silverlight for Windows Phone 7 (WP7), but I have started thinking I should have gone the XNA route. I am now trying to recreate the game in XNA so that once I can get my hands on a device I can figure out for certain if the Silverlight version can perform as well as the XNA version for what I'm trying to accomplish.

In getting started in XNA it took me a bit to figure out how to draw my sprites and game in the landscape orientation on the phone. I also thought it was a bit tough to add a frame per second counter, something I heavily rely on when developing for Silverlight - this blog entry will show how to accomplish both.

How to create a landscape game in XNA for WP7
Keep in mind that according to this article by Shawn Hargreaves there will eventually be built in support in WP7 for handling the landscape orientation - this solution is just a temporary solution until then. Also, keep in mind that things like the X and Y positions for mouse and touch events will need to be inverted as well to support landscape.

First, we are going to create a RenderTarget2D - this is basically a buffer we are going to render everything to before rendering this buffer to the screen at a 90 degree rotation. We also want to define variables for the width and height of the game window instead of relying on GraphicsDevice.Viewport since we are flipping the X and Y coordinates to make the game landscape.

private RenderTarget2D renderTarget; // what game world is rendered on before being rotated
private int GameWindowWidth; // the width of the game window we are rendering to 
private int GameWindowHeight; // the height of the game window we are rendering to

Setup the GameWindow variables in the Initialize() method:

GameWindowWidth = graphics.GraphicsDevice.Viewport.Height;
GameWindowHeight = graphics.GraphicsDevice.Viewport.Width;

Initialize our RenderTarget variable in the LoadContent() method:

renderTarget = new RenderTarget2D(GraphicsDevice, GameWindowWidth, GameWindowHeight, false, 
    SurfaceFormat.Color, DepthFormat.Depth16);

(click 'read more' to keep reading..)

Speaking at CodeStock 2010

I am very stoked to say that I've been selected to speak at CodeStock 2010 in Knoxville, TN on June 25th and 26th. I'll be doing a revamped version of my Thinking Outside the Battleship Gray Box talk I did at the Atlanta Silverlight Meetup group a few months ago, and I'll be adding some new examples including some demos on Windows Phone 7.

Poll: Old VS New Look of the Windows Phone 7 Start Screen

Ever since Long Zheng pointed out an alternate start screen for Windows Phone 7 I've been convinced that the older layout was the better layout. The blank area in the current start screen (example B) is referred to as the 'gutter' - but it seems to be inconsistent with the use of cutoff text in the rest of the experience. I want to see what other folks think, so click the image below and weigh in via a twitter poll on the subject:

CodingTags: 

Using the Facebook Developer Toolkit With Windows Phone 7

A couple of people have noticed that the Facebook Developer Toolkit doesn't work on the current release of Windows Phone 7. The primary reason is that it has a dependency on System.Windows.Browser - a library which isn't in the WP7 runtime (Silverlight isn't hosted in a browser on the phone).

I took the source from the Facebook Developer Toolkit and hacked at it until I got it to work on the phone. Here is a quick demo showing it working in the WP7 emulator:

(click 'read more' for more on how this was done..)

Example Pivot Control for Windows Phone 7

I know I said I was done trying to recreate the Pivot control, but I'm happy to be able to share a standalone Pivot control that I've been working on. Keep in mind that a real Pivot control from Microsoft should eventually be released, so this control is not intended to be used in your final production code.

First, download the attached SmartyPantsPivotLibrary_Release1.zip, extract it, and add a reference in your project to SmartyPantsPivotLibrary.dll. Next, add a reference in your MainPage.xaml to the library like this:

xmlns:spcoding="clr-namespace:SmartyPantsPivotLibrary;assembly=SmartyPantsPivotLibrary"

Next, add an instance of the PivotControl inside of the ContentGrid in your MainPage.xaml:

        <Grid x:Name="ContentGrid" Grid.Row="1">
            <spcoding:PivotControl>
                <spcoding:PivotControl.PivotPages>
                    <spcoding:PivotPage PageTitle="main">                        
                        <spcoding:PivotPage.Content>
                            <TextBlock>main section goes here</TextBlock>
                        </spcoding:PivotPage.Content>
                    </spcoding:PivotPage>
                    <spcoding:PivotPage PageTitle="options">
                        <spcoding:PivotPage.Content>
                            <TextBlock>options section goes here</TextBlock>
                        </spcoding:PivotPage.Content>
                    </spcoding:PivotPage>
                    <spcoding:PivotPage PageTitle="about">
                        <spcoding:PivotPage.Content>
                            <StackPanel Orientation="Vertical">
                                <TextBlock>about section goes here</TextBlock>
                            </StackPanel>
                        </spcoding:PivotPage.Content>
                    </spcoding:PivotPage>
                </spcoding:PivotControl.PivotPages>
            </spcoding:PivotControl>
        </Grid>

As you can see by the XAML definition above, you are basically adding a PivotControl, and then populating PivotPages with multiple PivotPage entries. A PivotPage is defined as having a PageTitle property (what appears across the pivot menu across the top) and a Content property (what shows up in the main content area for each pivot page).

One other thing you may want to use are two events that tell you when the pivot pages are being dragged around - by listening to these events you can make sure the user doesn't accidentally click on something while changing pages (more on this in the video below):

MainPivot.PivotPageMoving += (s, e) => { _ignoreClicks = true; };
MainPivot.PivotPageDoneMoving += (s, e) => { _ignoreClicks = false; };

Below is a quick video showing how to use the control and discussing a bit more about it, you'll find the example project attached to this post:

As a side note, I have been unable to get this control to work in a large project I had already been working on - for some reason an unhandled Application level exception occurs after changing pages from time to time - unfortunately the exception provides no details and the call stack only shows internal methods. So, this control is provided AS IS - I won't really know how well this works until others try and use it. I also am not committed to maintaining this control, but if you improve on the code and would like to have the code posted updated please feel free to let me know.