Windows Phone 8.1 has been released for developers, and will be available for all soon.

Of course you can already find great in detail reviews of Windows Phone 8.1:
http://www.wpcentral.com/windows-phone-81-review

or this nice video tour of its new features:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4Bygaqp3Wk&feature=share

 

Here I want to focus on the new features that help me boost my productivity since I installed the update on my phone.

 

Settings

  • “Show more Tiles” (now for non 1080p phones) increase tiles density on your start screen, more tiles = more tasks done quickly.
  • “Sync my settings” across devices, particularly interesting in IE where you can see tabs opened in your other devices.
  • “Project my screen” (TV, PC, projetor), this feature *will* allow you to mirror your screen to an external display, wirelessly using Miracast technology and *new* WP8.1 hardware, or via USB but we need to wait for the desktop app to be released by MS first. So it is not there yet, but it sure will be an excellent business feature.

 

Action Center

  • The long awaited feature, now on your Windows Phone! All your notifications in one place: essential.
  • Action center is also available under Lock screen! Yes, just swipe down on your lock screen, even if PIN protected.

 

Calendar

  • "This week" view is a very nice addition, I already can’t live without it!
  • Also includes weather info for each day, perfect to schedule your next activities and movements.

 

Keyboard

 

Phone

  • "Speed Dial", quickly call your favorites contacts.
  • Pin both "Battery Saver" and "Storage Sense" to your Start screen, they both are now separate apps which can be pinned with Live tiles, showing actual battery usage and storage info! Battery Saver also shows running background tasks, perfect to efficiently find the culprit if an app drains your battery!
  • Mute SMS message threads (no more notifications and Live Tile updates for this thread), go into the message thread you want to mute, check out more options at the bottom of the screen, and tap on mute thread. Also, note that a setting allows you to automatically mute messages during quiet hours (which is automatically activated while you are on a meeting or via different options you can set).

 

Cortana

Cortana, the new personal digital assistant, is truly amazing to organize your busy life!!

It is beta and USA only for now, but you can get it if you set both your region and language to english United States.

You can open Cortana with the search hardware button, an try questions like:

  • "What's my schedule like tomorrow ?"
  • "Set up an apointment with Joe Black tomorrow at 11am"
  • "Directions to the nearest pizza restaurant"
  • "Track United Airlines flight 250"

And much, much more… watch this video to learn more about its features and see it in action:

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If you are an ASP.NET dev and still wondering about Azure, the cloud offering from Microsoft, this is a presentation you don’t want to miss!!

 

“Top Azure features every ASP.NET developer should know about”
This meeting will be presented by Bill Wilder, MVP Azure from Boston, USA.

 

When: Monday, April 28, 2014
Where: Microsoft Montreal office (2000 McGill College, 4th floor, Montreal, QC)
Cost: Free for existing members, 5$ for visitors

 

To RSVP, visit http://www.meetup.com/dotnetmontreal/events/135071842/

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Since I installed Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 RC last week I keep getting the following error message while opening an existing solution:

 

Problem:

The 'Microsoft.VisualStudio.Editor.Implementation.EditorPackage' package did not load correctly.

 

Easy Fix:

Remove %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\VisualStudio\12.0\ComponentModelCache and restart Visual Studio 2013.

 

Happy coding!

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Windows 8.1 Update 1 has been announced last week at Microsoft Build 2014 conference.

It is free and already available for MSDN subscribers, and for everybody else on April 8th via Windows Update.

 

This update is mainly for mouse and keyboard users.

Microsoft finally realized that pushing touch features to everybody was definitely not a good choice, and lead to the low Windows 8 adoption that we all know.

This update is what Windows 8 should have been since day 1, and it would have help with adoption for sure.

The fact is 90% of people don’t have a touch PC (and probably don’t care about touch) so migrating to Windows 8 has been very painful for them, if ever considered.

Anyway this is a good thing, 2 updates later and MS is finally doing it right with Windows 8!

 

Some of the new features of Windows 8 Update 1:

  • Boot to Desktop: it was introduced by Windows 8.1, but it is now the default for non touch systems (staring at the obvious… )
  • Power and Search Buttons on Start (Ok now I am not ashamed anymore to show someone how to shutdown a Win8 PC… going to settings menu to shutdown a PC… WTF!!??)
  • Modern Apps on the Taskbar (more integration and coherence between desktop and modern apps, good thing)
  • Desktop clicks don't open modern apps anymore (I was so tired of this…)
  • Title Bars for modern apps, with minimize and close buttons.

All in all I am *very* happy with this update for my laptop, where I never really use modern apps.

In the opposite, I really enjoy Modern Apps on my touch devices and Surface.

Starting with this update I think the dual mode of Windows 8 really works.

 

Scott Hanselman did an awesome quick video walk-through of the new features of Windows 8.1 Update 1:

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Notable announcements of day 2


Microsoft Azure (some of the new features…)

  • Awesome new Azure portal (preview today) with customizable new dashboard, Online service and Application Insights integration, …
  • Staging server with single click swap for production deployment
  • Create/manage Azure Virtual machines directly in Visual Studio, including support for remote debugging (allow you to attach the local debugger to processes running on the VM)
  • Azure Web Sites
    • SSL certificates free for all web sites!
    • Support for Java
    • Autoscale
    • Traffic Manager
    • Backup
  • SQL Databases
    • Self-service restore with daily automatic backups (up to 31 days)
    • Max size is now 500 GB (up from 150 GB)
    • Active geo replication
  • Mobile Services
    • Notification Hub with push notifications to any mobile device including Kindle now
    • Office 365 integration with Active Directory support
    • Offline data synchronization
    • Remote debugging

Open Source

  • Roslyn, the .NET compiler platform, is now an open source project on CodePlex! (good for Xamarin!)
  • New broader initiative called .NET Foundation to showcase the multiple .NET components available as open source (24 .NET open source projects so far)

 

Note: I had never before seen so many iOS, Android and Java logos in a MS conference… and it’s a good sign! MS is now a cloud + services company. Even John Gruber appeared in a promo video during the keynote.

 

Watch the entire keynote online:
http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2014/KEY02

Read the official press release:
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/events/build/

build

Notable announcements of day 1

Universal apps

  • New model in VS2013 update 2 to create apps for both Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1, and later Xbox One as well (so “Universal” in the terms of Windows…)
  • So today you can create an app that shares XAML, C#/C++, Javascript code across your Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 projects.
  • A new touch version of Office is being written as an universal app
  • “Shared app identities” allows users to purchase an app once and use it on Windows and Phone!

Windows 8.1 Update

  • Series of enhancements for better mouse/keyboard integration with Metro and the desktop (at last!!)
  • Default boot to desktop mode for non touch systems!
  • Desktop: Pin Windows Store apps to the taskbar, right-click context menus, …
  • Start menu is back with vengeance and tiles support!
  • Windows free for 9” and less screen devices!

Windows Phone 8.1

  • Cortana (beta): new digital personal assistant for WP8.1, replacing the bing search button (good riddance!!)
  • More customizable lock screen + API
  • Action Center, a pull down notification bar that allows quick access to app info and settings
  • Support for multi-sim phones
  • New workflow keyboard with swipe interface
  • Support for Bluetooth LE (i.e. Fitbit)
  • New Nokia devices: Lumia 630 (with on-screen buttons) and Lumia 930

The 15 minutes mandatory video!

Introducing Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update

 

Watch the entire keynote online:
http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2014/KEY01

Read the official press release:
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/events/build/

As you probably know, Build conference starts tomorrow and I have 18 sessions in my schedule, it’s gonna be a fun week!!!

If like me you’re passionate about XAML, Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Store App development, I have curated this list of sessions just for you (and me…):

Let the fun begin!

windows phone

Matteo Pagani has written a 243 pages ebook on Windows Phone 8, that covers most of the important concepts, from the basic ones (like XAML, application lifecycle, etc.) to the most advanced ones (like background tasks, geolocalization and speech APIs).


Chapters list:

  1. Introduction
  2. The User Interface: Basic XAML Concepts
  3. Core Concepts
  4. Data Access: Storage
  5. Data Access: Network
  6. Integrating with the Hardware
  7. Integrating with the Operating System
  8. Multimedia Applications
  9. Live Apps: Tiles, Notifications, and Multitasking
  10. Distributing the Application: Localization, the Windows Phone Store, and In-App Purchases

Most amazing part: the ebook is available for free thanks to Syncfusion. You just have to register and then you’ll be able to download it both in PDF and Kindle format.

http://www.syncfusion.com/resources/techportal/ebooks/windowsphone8

windows_phone8_development_succinctly_download

With the new version of SQL Server available in a a few days, you might wonder what's in it for you?

If you are in the Montréal area, don't miss the official launch organized by the Montreal .NET Community and sponsored by Microsoft.

Présentations will be in French.

 

Where: Microsoft Montreal office

When: Saturday April 12

Cost: free (including pizza) but you must reserve your place.

To RSVP, visit http://www.meetup.com/dotnetmontreal/events/139950192/

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Have you checked Microsoft Virtual Academy courses ?
Here is my Microsoft Virtual Academy learning plan for the upcoming weeks:

 

Enterprise Developer Camp Jump Start
http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/enterprise-developer-camp-jump-start


Designing Applications for Windows Azure Jump Start
http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/designing-applications-for-windows-azure-jump-start


Windows 8.1 Developer Training: Geek Edition Jump Start
http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/windows-8-1-developer-training-geek-edition-jump-start


Designing Your XAML UI with Blend Jump Start
http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/designing-your-xaml-ui-with-blend-jump-start

 

Happy learning!

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