“Empower Every Person and Every Organisation on the Planet to Achieve More”

“Empower Every Person and Every Organisation on the Planet to Achieve More” – for the past while this has been the new vision statement from Microsoft.

Microsoft have worked hard towards this goal over the last number of years with great strides in innovations in Windows 10, AI, Mixed Reality and IoT.

So how have they done that?

In years gone by, you needed to be an IT pro to make the most of your PC and to keep productivity at a maximum and when it came to your mobile phone it was a completely different learning curve. However with the introduction of Microsoft 365 – the PC now goes beyond the phone – you can be browsing a webpage on your PC and pickup where you left off on your phone – the same goes for documents – experiences become familiar no matter which platform you work from – you can take your office in your pocket!

OK – that’s cool – but what else?

From a developer perspective, Microsoft has brought some great services to the forefront through their intelligent cloud and intelligent edge vision. As a developer, I have little knowledge of complex machine learning or computer vision theory, but through the power of Microsoft Azure – I can utilise these things in applications and services that I make. For example, through the computer vision services, I can add facial recognition to an app without having to fully understand how it works.

OK, so what does this all mean for me?

Microsoft really want you to succeed through using their products – if you are a student, musician, author, artist, developer – you name it! With recent events such as the global Insider Dev Tour, Microsoft aimed to show how their products and services can help you no matter your walk of life.

If you want to play your part and shape the Windows ecosystem for you’re field of work or your side hustle – sign up to become a Windows Insider at https://insider.windows.com/en-us/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Windows Insiders

A Windows Insider 2nd Anniversary

Two years ago, on the 1stJune 2016 – Dona Sarkar took over the Windows Insiders Program from Gabe Aul.

 

Over the past two years, we have seen countless releases within the program, fast ring, slow ring and Skip Ahead. We’ve seen new features introduced such as timeline, focus assist, improvements to Edge, security and Windows in general across the board.

 

But the Windows Insider Program has grown beyond that.

 

Windows Insiders have grown to become one of the biggest communities on the planet, with numbers over 15 million reaching every part of the globe. Windows Insiders come from all backgrounds and use Windows for a variety of different things – graphic design, software development, writing, film making who all feed into the product to make it better for everyone.

 

Through various initiatives within the Windows Insider Program such as the “Insiders4Good” fellowship (https://insider.windows.com/en-gb/community-fellowships/) – Dona and team have helped like-minded individuals use Windows 10 to help those in their communities availing of the support and advice of the Windows Insiders Network.

 

I was fortunate enough to meet Dona and her team at Build 2018 and one thing that stood out for me was the level of passion that she has for the program – something that became evident very quickly. Many individuals visited the Windows Insider booth over the 3 days and she took the time to listen to them, what they were doing in their communities, their thoughts on Windows 10 and how the product could be improved. She would actively encourage each and every person to put it in her words, “Do the thing!”.

 

Happy 2ndAnniversary as leader of the Windows Insiders Program Dona!

 

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Posted in Windows Insiders

Microsoft Build 2018

I had the privilege of attending and speaking at Microsoft Build 2018 this year as a guest of the Windows Insider Team at Microsoft, along with two other Windows Insiders Irving Amukasa Anjere and Uwabajimana N. Ange – you can read about their stories here.

For those who don’t know what the Windows Insider Program is – in a nutshell, it allows users to test the latest and greatest Windows 10 builds from Microsoft, allowing them to feed directly into the feedback process in order to help shape the product, as well as connecting these “Insiders” together in order to help them do great things in their local communities. (P.S You can sign up at https://insider.windows.com).

I had the pleasure of meeting Dona Sarkar (Head of the Windows Insider Program), and Jeremiah Marble (Director of Developer Marketing) on my first day when we rehearsed – it was brilliant to get an insight into the people behind the Windows Insider Team.

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Day 1

On Day 1 of Build, we heard from Satya Nadella on Microsoft’s vision of the Intelligent Cloud and the Intelligent Edge, as well as hearing from Scott Guthrie on the latest advancements in Azure – we had some pretty amazing demos as well, including AI & Drone’s as well as the Intelligent Meeting Room.

 

 

After the keynote, I spent some time on the expo hall floor visiting booths and hearing from those who have built the technologies that I use every day in my work – the thing that struck me most about this was how genuinely pleased these people were that you were using their technologies.  I then spent some time at the Windows Insiders booth where I met more of the Windows Insiders team.

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In the early evening, I then had the privilege of speaking at one of the Windows Insider team’s sessions on turning your code into a viable business which was great fun!

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Later that evening, we were brought outside the expo hall, where we were told we would meet a “special guest” – who turned out to be Sataya Nadella himself. I had a chance to talk to him for 5 minutes or so, where I was able to tell him about Proto Software  as well as the strong developer community present at home.

Day 2

On Day 2 of build, we heard from Joe Belfiore on the advancements coming to Windows 10 in the coming months, as well as information on the Microsoft Graph API

 

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I had lots of time to go around different booths speaking to more developers and PM’s as well as attending different talks, including a talk on the future of app development by Miguel De Icaza – co – founder of Xamarin as well as talks on creating intelligent Bots hosted in Azure.

 

Day 3

On the final day of build, I had the opportunity to visit the expo floor again talking to more engineers as well as attending more talks – I even ended up volunteering to be part of a Xamarin & Cognitive Services Demo (https://medius.studios.ms/Embed/Video/THR2416?sid=THR2416).

I then got the chance to participate in the Windows Insider Mixer Webcast where I got a chance to talk about Proto Software and my involvement in the Windows Insider Program (https://mixer.com/WindowsInsider) – all in all – a very good end to a great 3 days.

On a side note…

One of the major Windows Insider Announcements from build 2018 was the launch of the Insider Dev Tour (https://insiderdevtour.com) – I’ll be attending the event in Dublin and I would encourage you to attend the event nearest to you!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Importance of Good Feedback

Most of my time is spent developing software – this could be working on existing or new software for clients or developing our own products and sending it out to potential customers for testing.

Another portion of my time is spent advocating Microsoft and in particular the Windows Insider Program which is heavily based around the feedback from users to help build Windows 10.

An area of particular importance for both working in software development and the Windows Insider program is the area of FEEDBACK.

Feedback could take the form of giving an opinion on an idea or or on something that has already been developed – and it is important to try and be as descriptive as possible (it helps both you as the person providing feedback and the developer get the issue solved quicker).

For example, if you are providing feedback on an app (or a new feature of Windows) – try and avoid phrases like “it doesn’t work”, or “it’s broke” – try and provide as much detail as possible – what device are you using? What were you doing at the time? Did an error message appear? Can you reproduce the issue by trying the same steps again?

If you are able to answer these kind of questions, it gives developers (like me!) a better understanding of what has went wrong and how to fix it feeding back into the development of the product providing a better outcome for all parties involved.

Likewise, if you are involved in providing ideas to help improve a product, try and be as descriptive as you can. Avoid phrases like “make it look better”, or “make it work better” – be as detailed as you can and try and describe why your suggestion would help improve the product – it helps developers gain a better understanding of the users of the product. The more detailed your feedback is – the more actionable it will be.

In short – good communication within your feedback makes the world a better place!

Posted in Windows Insiders Tagged with:

The backlash against running non Microsoft software on Windows 10

I’ve seen online over the last few days a huge and somewhat personal attack on Microsoft engineers for using non Microsoft built software on Windows 10 – I’m going to try an outline why.

As an operating system, Microsoft supports a mind boggling array of hardware and software of which they actually made very little. The beauty of software is that a kid in their bedroom can write for Windows, all the way up to a large organisation (and these applications need TESTED)

Unfortunately, Microsoft can’t test every single piece of software ever made for Windows – but in order to ensure the best experience for consumers, Microsoft need to test the most popular applications with each build of Windows 10 (falling into their AppCompat team). Consumers expect their software (Microsoft made or not) to run smoothly on Windows 10 and this is simply what Microsoft are trying to achieve.

Developers too want Microsoft to test their software – if I was a large software company serving millions of customers a day on Windows – I would like to think that Microsoft assist in testing and ensuring that my software will work on their most recent and future releases.

So while you may be unhappy at seeing Microsoft staff using Chrome etc. –  just remember that they could be testing for the millions of other customers who use Chrome etc. on Windows every day.

Posted in Windows 10, Windows Insiders Tagged with:

A Windows Insiders Thank You

On the 1st June 2016, Dona Sarkar took over the leadership role of the Windows Insiders Program from Gabe Aul, taking the title of “Chief Ninja Cat”

From then, we have seen numerous builds of Windows 10, bug bashes and many #Winsiders4Good events.

In the past year, we have seen the Windows Insiders Community grow from a community that simply tested the latest Windows 10 Builds to a community of designers, programmers, creatives and doers that are helping shape the world.

This, in part, is down to the wonderful Dona Sarkar, who over the past year has spearheaded the Insiders movement.

From taking over from Gabe last year, Dona has enhanced the community aspect of the Windows Insiders Program, and has had the ability to bring people together, both in the physical and virtual worlds in order to do great things while also maintaining a steady cadence of Windows 10 builds.

With an active encouragement to “Do The Thing”, Dona has instilled a belief in many to find their superpower and use it for the benefit of others, enabling them when she can to achieve their goals.

She has brought the tech community closer together in order to help build relationships and form the tech that will help shape our world – she has been a true inspiration and guidance to many.

I think I can speak for everyone in congratulating and thanking Dona for her leadership, time and dedication over the past year.

From all Insiders across the globe, thank you Dona!

Posted in Windows Insiders

Making it in the Tech World

The technology world has to be one of the most fastest changing industries of all time – innovation happens on a daily basis – it’s hard to stand out.

Whether you are a student that has been studying Computing or simply someone that has a passion for all things tech – there are ways to help you stand out from the crowd, make yourself known and land that dream job.

Promote Yourself

Employers won’t know your skills and interests and what you can do unless you tell them. There are a number of ways to promote yourself – LinkedIn is especially good for creating an online CV of sorts – you can list your education and work history, skills you have & other areas which you have an interest in.

Another way to promote yourself is through the creation of an online portfolio – this shows recruiters that you can put your skills into practice and gives them something tangible to look at.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Be Social

Whatever area of technology you are interested in – whether it is web & mobile application development, VR, AI, Microsoft & Java technology stacks etc. ,you will find that there are industry leaders on social media. Get on Twitter and Facebook – follow some of these people and organisations – it’s the easiest way to keep up to date with the latest trends.

Also, you may find a local meetup group for your area of interest – these are a great way to get some exposure and also to help you make connections – there is no better way to learn that to learn from other people. Fostering a spirit of community within the developer world is very important. Check https://www.meetup.com and you may find a group near you.

Last of all…be passionate.

This is probably the most important thing of all in my opinion.

Whatever your chosen area is, be passionate about it. Whether it is making mobile applications or creating games or VR apps – if you genuinely have an interest and are enthusiastic about it – it will rub off on people. Those who have a genuine passion for something will stand out from the crowd. Talk about your passion and share it with others!

 

 

 

Posted in Misc Tagged with:

Windows Insider Create-A-Thons

The Windows Insiders Program has been going for some time now and has grown from a beta testing program into so much more.

Over the last few months, program lead Dona Sarkar has kicked off the #WINsiders4Good Create-A-Thon campaign, which involves creative people (developers / non – developers), getting together in order to solve a problem and it has had excellent success in America and as far away as Nigeria.

If you want to start your own Create-A-Thon (CAT) – the guide can be found at https://insider.windows.com/Home/Give (you will need your Microsoft Account).

Getting in to the topic at hand…

I thought it would be good to put it out to the community to see how many CAT’s have / are happening worldwide to see how far and wide Windows Insiders are reaching, and so I created the CAT map at http://catlocations.azurewebsites.net/map.php.

To use the Map, simply search for where your CAT has taken place, click on the map and hit submit and it will be added to the map.

For the tech people, this page is backed by an Azure App Service which handles the GET and POST calls to the database. The front end is HTML / Javascript with some PHP for processing. A little messy – but it works!

Feel free to reach out to me at @rayd_250592 or at raymond@protosoftware.co.uk with feedback / suggestions!

Posted in Windows Insiders Tagged with:

Windows 10 Anniversary Update

The Windows 10 Anniversay Update is released today (2nd August 2016), and comes with a host of new features:

  1. The UI for the start menu has been changed to allow for less scrolling.
  2. Live tiles are now smarter with “Chaseable” live tiles. This means that if a live tile shows an email or news story, it will open on that email / news story when the app is opened.
  3. Action Center has had a great deal of improvement with richer notifications. If you have Cortana activated and installed on both your PC and phone – your PC will be able to show you notifications from your phone (very handy!).
  4. The taskbar has been improved with the number of notifications on an app being displayed beside the app icon.
  5. Cortana can now be activated from your lock screen, helping you before you even log on to your computer.
  6. Microsoft Edge now has extensions such as LastPass. Edge now supports web notifications, allowing for websites to give you notifications in Action Center.
  7. Windows Ink – this is a massive improvement to the pen support within Windows 10 allowing for intelligent inking (e.g jotting down something on a sticky note and the note being automatically saved to Cortana).
  8. Bash on Windows 10 – This is a Linux subsystem which can be installed inside Windows 10, giving developers access to Linux commands directly from within Windows – no VM needed!
  9. Unified Windows App Store – with this update, the Windows Store and Xbox Store have begun to merge – allowing for the majority of Windows 10 apps to be used on the Xbox One!
  10. Windows Hello – Windows Hello will now support apps and websites allowing you to log on using your face or fingerprint.

 

There you have it – 10 new features on the Windows 10 Anniversary Update!

Posted in Windows 10 Tagged with:

Microsoft – Getting it Right

I’ll apologise in advance – this is an opinion piece!

Microsoft have been about for many years now and have adopted many different strategies throughout their time.

In more recent years, I genuinely believe that they’ve got it right – both from a consumer point of view and a developer point of view.

In my own experience from a developer point of view – I don’t think Microsoft could operate any better. Through their excellent academic engagement program, I got involved in Microsoft events run at my university. It was here that it first became apparent to me that those involved in running the academic program were genuinely enthused and excited when you built things using Microsoft technology and that they were keen to help you in any way that they could. Through various events, competitions and programmes throughout my time at university, I felt well equipped and confident in the technologies being used (whether it be C# or Azure).

Moving into a graduate role, I was concerned that Microsoft would lose interest in me, but I am happy to say that I was completely wrong. The academic team introduced me to some of the individuals in the developer evangelism teams who have assisted and supported me when approached about work related questions, or questions about some of my own projects. Again, the developer evangelism team were as passionate and excited about Microsoft and their products as their colleagues. I was also fortunate to be given the opportunity to attend a few of their events down in Dublin, as well as being provided with support to start some of my own (I’m running an Azure meetup in Belfast – if you’re interested you can get the info here).

On the consumer side, Microsoft are making waves. Their biggest success being the Windows insider Program, allowing consumers to shape the future of the Operating system – getting pre – release builds of the software, allowing them to submit feedback to developers. Aside from that, their Azure cloud platform is taking off, with it being used to power apps, games as well as a host of other services. Innovation is also happening in the area of the “Internet of Things”, where the introduction of Windows 10 IoT core and the associated Azure services, consumers are now starting to see innovative products – don’t believe me – look here!

My career is only starting and I already know that Microsoft are behind me and will support me in any way that they can!

Exciting times ahead for Microsoft!

Posted in Misc Tagged with: