I recall about two years ago, I wanted to get some programs in the Microsoft store. Had to learn about Windows 8. Even bought and installed a copy of the Win 8 operating system. I studied and practiced how to write a Windows 8 app and get it published. Hurray.


Turns out it is a lot easier these days to publish to the Windows Store. You can even deploy a normal Windows application. This one guy I read about pushed his VB6 application into the store. Can you believe it? Microsoft is making it easy.

Back to Visual Studio

Today I went into the office to meet up with a coworker. We are not working on anything together. But we get together once a week for camaraderie. Today my coworker talked about a tool written by a developer on his project. The tool found all files with the SQL extension, and ran the scripts in the database.


Later I got to thinking about how hard that task would be. I figured I would give it a go to see how long it would take to implement such a thing. That is when I found there was no Visual Studio installed on my work laptop. Ah the horror.


My excuse is that this is a relatively new laptop. The crime is that I only installed Python when I received the laptop. So I downloaded the Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition installer. It was free. It required 6GB with no options selected. I needed to at least have Visual C++ present. That bumped up the requirements to 11GB.


After choosing the minimal options to install, I got some info on what would go down. I would get the Windows 8 SDK. Would also get the common tools. Luckily I was getting the Microsoft Foundation Classes which I am familiar with. Also get Windows XP Support.


Of course setup failed. There were problems with the .NET framework and other things. Let's hope I can get this thing installed. Otherwise I might need to fall back to Python.

Dashboard Fail

Last summer I wrote a bunch of Windows 8 apps. It was part of some promotion from Microsoft. Deployed around eight apps or so. Sold a few. Made a bit of cash. Nothing serious. The best thing about putting my apps on sale was that it motivated me to get my own domain to host my web pages.

I used to check out my earnings every so often using the Microsoft Dashboard for developers. It showed how many copies of my apps sold. Recently I logged into my dashboard. The thing said the dashboard was upgrading. Okay. Turns out I can no longer view my dashboard.

Been working with Microsoft to try to get the problem resolved. Recorded my experience a few times with a tool. Tried different browsers and machines (it does not work using IE). Got a request to upgrade my browser. Umm no thanks. Not going to try that just to see what happens.

Then I get an email from Microsoft support saying that since I was not willing to upgrade my browser, they are done trying to help resolve my issue. LOL wut? I work on resolve software and system problems myself. So I can spot when somebody knows an issue, and when somebody is stumbling around guessing what might affect a problem.

Guess what Microsoft seems to be doing? Making some guesses. Come on. Dig in and figure out what is wrong with your web site. I mean it is serving people developing for Microsoft. Don't you want to keep those people happy and writing more apps for your operating system? Sheesh.

Universale Apps

You can now have a single solution that targets both Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 at the same time. Allegedly you will also be able to target XBox in the future. This is called universale apps. I like the sound of that. My current projects only support Windows 8.1. It would be nice if the same build can crank out Windows Phone or XBox targets too.

The way it works is that you have one solution with with multiple projects in it. Two of the projects are for Windows Phone and Windows 8.1. The other is a shared project. The shared project name ends with shproj. The shared project is like a library and does not output a package. It also cannot be the startup project in Visual Studio.

Speaking of VS, you need Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 to be able to do universal apps. Of course you will also need to be developing on Windows 8.1. Me, I like to code in C++. However if you write code in JavaScript, you can utilize third party frameworks. You know that is popular in the JavaScript world.

Azure

The folks at my company are getting stoked on Microsoft technologies recently. I have seen a bunch of emails about training up on the latest Microsoft offerings. My boss even said we should see if we could get certified in some of these technologies. So when I saw an article in a magazine about Azure, I read on.

There are a host of technologies in the Azure world to help you serve up web sites. They got the database covered with Azure SQL Database. It is a cloud based database. But it support relational queries. Deep down underneath there is a SQL Server Database there.

They have a separate Azure Blob Storage to deal with storing of files. That feels like a different idea to me, as I normally just stick blobs in my Oracle database. Then again, I deal with a user base on the order of 1000 or so. Blob Storage has its own set of ideas such as accounts and containers.

Next up we got Azure Queue Storage. I have also see it referred to as Azure Storage Queue. This is the standard queuing idea where you store a bunch of messages that will later be worked asynchonously.

Microsoft has the Azure Traffic Manager to direct users to destinations of choice. This lets you use multiple sites to serve up your web pages. And you can do an upgrade while keeping your systems and sites online.

Finally I want to mention Web Jobs. This is the Azure way to run background tasks. They can be regularly scheduled tasks. Web Jobs has its own SDK that you will want to become familiar with. So much to learn.

The Windows 8 Platform

Windows 8 is Microsoft's latest operating system. There is a Start Screen instead of a Start button. There is a virtual keyboard available. Rectangular icons called tiles are shown on the Start Screen. Tiles represent apps. Tiles that show changing info are live tiles.

There is a Charms Bar on the right hand of the screen. Apps open up to fill the whole screen. Apps can also be displayed side by side. Apps can use a touchscreen. Apps need a minimum of 1024 x 768 screen resolution. There is a new picture password for logging into Windows. The old school Windows desktop is an app.

Apps are sold in the Windows App Store. You need an account to upload apps to it. Looks like Windows 8 is the future. It may take a while for it to catch on.

Final Thoughts on Windows 8 App Dev


There are a bunch of image sizes associated with Windows 8 apps. Your logo is 150 x 150 pixels. The small logo is 30 x 30. The splash screen is 620 x 300. And the store logo is 50 x 50. You should also have some promotional images. At the very least you should provide one that is 414 x 180.

Your app has to pass tests from the Windows App Certification Kit (ACK). This tool laucnhes your app. This must be the release version of your app. I use version 2.2 of the ACK to do my business. Don't worry too much. Visual Studio will guide you through running it before uploading to the Windows Store.

You must register as a Windows Developer to upload your apps to the Windows Store. Normally this costs $49 for an individual account. A corporate account will oost you $99. I think these are the yearly fees. I hear you can get a free account if you are a student and you can prove it. At least you used to be able to get a free student account.

Watch out. A human reviews your app for inclusion in the Windows 8 Store. You app has to "provide real value" or it could get rejected. At least one of mine got rejected. I gave up on that app. Other more worthwhile apps that initially got rejected eventually got through. Some I am still working on.