I was super excited for yesterday’s Xbox reveal event. Now that it’s over I’m not as excited as I was before. Initially, I was just like “oh, that was it?”. The name reveal was quite funny as my house-mates and I were on the edge of our seats as Don Mattrick said “So, it’s time” and “Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing… Xbox One”. Again “whaaat?” came to mind. None of us were expecting that. In fact, the whole show was very surprising. There was way too much about sport. Every other thing was sport. Sport on TV, sport in apps, sport in games. Oh yeah, games. There were about 3 non-sport titles, and they were very shortly talked about and then hurried away to talk about sports some more. I think there were a lot of disappointed nerds who were hoping for some more impressive game info. I’m sure they are saving it for E3, but I believe it was a bad move as Sony had a good game presence at their PS4 unveiling.
Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’m much more interested in the Xbox One. At first, I could not get over how the name would bring to mind the original Xbox – every time it was said. I’m getting used to it and starting to like it. I understand why they went with the name. The console and the experience is ‘All in One’. It’s the ‘one’ place to go. This is it, the One. It kind of works now. The one thing I’m a bit annoyed at is the logo. A lazy use of Segoe UI font and ta-da, the Xbox One logo. It’s the letter N that bothers me. I suggest the corners should be angled like this:
I just think it looks better. The current one looks bland, especially next to the more interesting word ‘XBOX’. Removing the straight edges seems to fit the logo more, in my opinion.
Another design choice I’m not digging too much is the console itself. It looks okay, although it has an uncanny resemblance to a VCR. It also seems a bit lazy on Microsoft’s part. Maybe they thought they really needed to show off the console, after Sony didn’t do so at their event, and chose a prototype at random. So the styling is okay but the shape isn’t, in my opinion. There has never been just a rectangle console before. Most consoles have a shape that can be identified in silhouette. The straight edges of this box is boring. Here’s what I propose:
So there we go. I really love the instant resume and the app switching features of the One. The biggest issue I have with my 360 is how slow it takes to start up. I really hope Microsoft can win back people at E3 with games. Please remember Microsoft, without gamers there wouldn’t be an Xbox.
Wow it’s been a while since my last post. I’ve had no upcoming apps to talk about and it’s nearing the end of the second semester at Uni, thus the ‘big push’ for coursework! My 3D Graphics and Simulation coursework has been the thing I’ve spent the most time on recently. Learning OpenGL 3.1 from scratch is very difficult, I’ve never done any 3D graphics before; only 2D. Luckily I’ve had some good help from fellow students and it’s actually quite enoyable when you’re not stuck on bugs that end up being simple but take forever to work out, gurrr :P
The goal of the ACW is to build several cubes on top of each other to make a column. At the top is three emitters (the blue rectangles) that emit balls at random positions and times. The balls fall down the column, interacting and bouncing off the walls and cylinders inside. There is also a ‘sphere of doom’ which absorbs the mass and size of a ball if it collides.
It’s not finished yet, I’ve got non-axis aligned cylinders to add, as well as a lot of polish such as streamlining the code objects and improving the lighting. Using shaders for the first time is strange but interesting. Graphics card programming is like programming for another computer, not the one you are using. It’s also quite amazing how powerful the graphics card is, performing so many calculations so fast. With VSync turned off I sometimes saw the FPS go up to 8,000. This is a relatively simple simulation by today’s standards but it’s still impressive how much computers can do these days and also annoying PC gaming graphics are being held back so much by the current generation consoles.
On that note, I’m really looking forward to Microsoft’s next console announcement which is on the 21st of May. It will be interesting to see if they can match the PS4′s impressive show.
It’s great to see your app in the New Releases section of the Windows 8 Store, it means people can see it without searching for your app specifically. Then you see some of the apps that are also in the New Releases and you think “why?!”. Here are a few examples I found while browsing the New Releases on the Windows 8 Store. You’ll see what I mean.
Find a song and want to remember to download it later? Do you need a database that can only hold two strings? ‘Song Rememberer’ has got you covered. This app is quite pointless, why would you want such an apathetic, ugly app on you computer?
“This app use your device webcam as a Mirror to have a quick check of yourself and also to help you with your makeup” – App description
Why not indeed. I’ve seen several of these mirror apps. There must be a few good camera apps on the store. You don’t need an app that just uses your half-a-mega-pixel front camera as a mirror. And why is the only screenshot of the app somebody’s forehead and hair? What?
How to XAML? Such a simple and poorly implemented app, I don’t see why it’s on the Store. And the Start tile is this:
Aaah, Comic Sans! And that green! And it says the name of the app twice. And there is no background colour set for semantic zoom. Ooh, forget it.
And now my personal favourite:
Just a terrible looking app that makes me sad seeing it on an OS that has tried to promote good user interface and experience throughout it’s UI. Then this happens. It’s hilariously bad, it had me laughing for ages. Just a blank purple screen and some thoughtlessly-made player controls when you right click. And the creator has the audacity to charge £0.99 for it. Come on.
I know I’m having a jab at them. It is a bit annoying to have spent a long time on each detail of your own app when there are pieces like this on the Store. I appreciate not everyone knows the platform or the programming languages. These apps are a great example of starter projects to get going and learn how to code for Windows 8. By all means. Just please don’t submit them to the Store in this state, it’s not needed.
“Discover and create colour themes that can inspire any project with Kuler Touch. No matter what you’re creating, with Kuler Touch you can experiment quickly with colour variations and browse thousands of themes from the Adobe Kuler community.”
It’s been a lot of work recently to get it finished. I wanted it done before the bulk of coursework came my way. The main features:
- View thousands of themes from the Kuler community.
- Favourite the themes you love the most.
- Create your own themes or edit ones that others have made.
- Optimized for touch and Windows 8 – better than the Kuler website.
- Search and share themes with Windows 8 charms.
Please download, rate & review it, thanks!
It’s been a while now since I announced Kuler Touch and a lot of changes have been made so I thought it was time for an update. I’ve implemented almost all the features now. You can view all the highest rated, most popular and most recent themes and view random ones too. Comments appear if any have been posted and Windows search and share charms are also in there. You can search when the app isn’t running too which is quite useful. I’ve also implemented a favourites list so you can keep track of the themes you like.
I’m very happy with the app so far but it still needs quite a bit of polish. I’ve also incorporated a lot of animations using XAML storyboards. Storyboards are sections of code that allow your XAML UI elements to move around. They can be quite simple once you learn how to use them and can make your app look really fluid. Here’s an example of how to make a storyboard.
<Page.Resources> <Storyboard x:Name="commentEntrance"> <PopInThemeAnimation Storyboard.TargetName="commentGrid" SpeedRatio="0.20" FromVerticalOffset="100" FromHorizontalOffset="0"/> <DoubleAnimation Storyboard.TargetName="commentGrid" Storyboard.TargetProperty="Opacity" From="0.0" To="1.0" Duration="0:0:0.02"/> </Storyboard> </Page.Resources>
XAML storyboards are located in your page resources. You can also programmatically write them in C# if you want to do it that way, for example if you really need control over the animation at runtime. This code should work in Windows 8 and Windows Phone, I’m not sure about other platforms like WPF. The above code is for Kuler Touch’s comments. ‘PopInThemeAnimation’ is predefined to make an element slide in from an offset. Double Animations are really useful as they can change any number based property, like opacity or position, over time, and without hand-made key frames.
Storyboards are started using the C# command Begin(), for example ‘commentEntrance.Begin();’
A good way of having an element move around the screen is to use a translate transform and a double animation. For example:
<Grid.RenderTransform> <TranslateTransform x:Name="position"/> </Grid.RenderTransform>
The above will be nested into the element you want to move.
<Storyboard x:Name="menuMove"> <DoubleAnimation Storyboard.TargetName="position" Storyboard.TargetProperty="X" To="380" SpeedRatio="1.7"> <DoubleAnimation.EasingFunction> <QuadraticEase EasingMode="EaseInOut"/> </DoubleAnimation.EasingFunction> </DoubleAnimation> </Storybaord>
Then a storyboard is made. You can see the ‘To’ field is set to 380. This is the number of pixels I want to move the element by on the X axis. There is also an easing function nested in the animation element. This means the animation will accelerate at the start and decelerate to zero at the end. It makes the animation look more natural. There are quite a few different algorithms available to choose from, and the resulting animations are different. I suggest using one of the functions beginning with ‘q’ like quadratic or quartic ease. Use Intellisense to find them all.
One more thing you can do is add children transitions to your page. Adding an entrance transition can make UI elements appear into the app more fluidly and it’s really easy to implement.
<Grid.ChildrenTransitions> <TransitionCollection> <EntranceThemeTransition FromHorizontalOffset="80"/> </TransitionCollection> </Grid.ChildrenTransitions>
You can add this code to something like a grid and it will make all child elements inside transition in from the side. You can set custom offsets yourself. The animation will only play when the elements are created when the page is opened.
I hope this has been helpful. Check Intellisense for more animations and properties.
I’ve bought my first tablet! Last Saturday I ordered the Asus Vivo Tab TF810C from Amazon.co.uk and it arrived on Monday. I’ve been really excited about this specific tablet after some research into Windows 8 tablets last year. It was a difficult decision between this and the Microsoft Surface Pro. I chose the Vivo Tab because it it has a far longer battery life (Asus say up to 19 hours with the keyboard dock, we’ll see about that), and a bigger screen. While pricing hasn’t been announced in the UK for the Surface Pro yet, I’m pretty sure the Vivo Tab is also cheaper. There are no fans in the Vivo Tab too, and when it sits in the keyboard dock it can fold like a laptop and the screen can be at any angle, the Surface has only one position using the kickstand.
The tablet comes with the keyboard dock which has 2 USB ports and an additional battery. It also comes with a Wacom Digitiser pen and a nice case which doubles as a stand, which I really like. Unfortunately the case only holds the tablet on its own, not connected to the keyboard dock, I’ll have to get a proper bag for it. I have really enjoyed the Tab so far, the screen is great and Windows 8 runs well on it. The Intel Atom processor isn’t very powerful so the desktop is a bit slow, however the formally ‘Metro’ environment is very slick and runs great. We just need a bigger, better selection of apps in the Store now.
A great feature of Visual Studio is the remote debugger. It allows you to deploy your apps to another device over Wi-Fi, in debug mode, and use the app running on that hardware, but also pause the app in Visual Studio on your development machine to debug like you would normally. I’ve been able to run Kuler Touch and get a good look at how that runs using a touch screen. Speaking of Kuler Touch, I’ve made great progress and the app now loads comments, caches themes and stores your favourites locally. Still a while to go before it’s Store-ready I think. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing what this tablet is like to work on when I get back to university, should be good.
I really wanted to focus on UI for my next Windows 8 app. I’ve got the C# down quite well so I wanted to make a good looking app with XAML. I knew about Adobe Kuler from previous experience with the site and I thought what a great way to focus on UI with an app about colours. Adobe Kuler, for those who don’t know, is a website and API that lets users create and share colour swatches. These could be used for whatever, making themes for your own project or inspiration for a wallpaper etc.
My Windows 8 app plans to emulate the features of the website, letting you view the newest, most popular or random themes people in the community have created. You’ll be able to copy the hex colour or RGB values to use for your own. I’m hoping to have a colour editor in the app, so you can create your own themes or edit others, we’ll see how difficult that is to implement. I want it to have Windows 8 charm features like search and share too. Should be a fun project.