Sunday, November 16, 2014

My first Microsoft MVP Summit experience

I got to attend my first Microsoft MVP Summit earlier this month in Redmond, Washington. This is a huge benefit of being a Microsoft MVP. Approximately 1,500 MVPs from around the world attended the summit this year, which is an invite-only event.

Microsoft invites its MVPs to not only share news about upcoming stuff from the Redmond mill, but also to gather feedback and hear about what the community expects to see from Microsoft - the MVPs being the ears and eyes of Microsoft around the world inside the community of users who use Microsoft products everyday.

This year, I hear, was bigger and better than the years past. Microsoft hosted a MVP showcase on Sun, Nov-2 where MVPs from different technology groups showcased the stuff they've been working on. There were even some Microsoft teams like the Surface, Azure and Office who were showcasing their products. The main sessions for the summit started on Monday. Microsoft provided buses to and from all the official summit hotels to the main campus and also shuttled around the MVPs from one campus building to another as different sessions were being held in different buildings. One of the biggest benefits of hosting the MVP Summit on the main Microsoft campus is that we get to meet all the different product teams and interact directly with them. Another big benefit is being able to meet and interact with other fellow MVPs, who are all smart and highly regarded people in their respective field.

If you didn't know already, I was awarded the MVP status earlier this year in what is now the Windows Platform Development expertise, which meant I attended the Windows Platform Development related sessions for the most part. While I cannot talk about what we discussed during the sessions, as it is all under NDA - yes, all MVPs have to sign a NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) with Microsoft in order to be eligible to attend the summit as a lot of not-yet publicly known information is shared during the sessions - I can tell you that we all live in exciting times! Oh, and during one of the sessions I saw an image of myself popup on the screen which made me smile...check it out for yourself below, I am the second one from the left.

Microsoft using my photo in their presentations

The main sessions, side sessions and one-to-one feedback sessions continued till Thursday, but I don't want you to think that it was all talks and no fun. We started out on Sunday with a Product Group event where we all got to split into teams and participate in an The Amazing Race like city-wide fun-run in Seattle. Monday evening we had team dinners, though it left a lot to be desired from a dinner perspective and lot of us had to hunt for food elsewhere. All was redeemed on Tuesday evening though, when the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, had a private talk with the MVPs followed by dinner. Wednesday evening saw the official MVP Summit Attendee Party at Fremont Studios in Seattle which was a fun social event with enough food and drinks to cater to all along with some karaoke.

Alas, all good things come to an end and with the Summit sessions over on Thursday, it was time for me to get back home. But along with me I brought back memories of some great sessions and great conversations I had over the period of the last 4 days. I got to meet so many folks that I had only interacted with virtually over the Internet via Twitter, Email, LinkedIn, Microsoft forums, etc. before the summit.

Here's hoping that I get to live another day (get to attend another MVP Summit that is).

Paras Wadehra
Microsoft MVP
Twitter: @ParasWadehra

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Returning multiple values from a method

During your programming escapades you are sure to come across an instance when you need to return multiple values from a method.

The traditional ways of doing it are:

(i) to create an object of a class, instantiate it and assign values to the object inside the method and then return the object from the method, or

(ii) to assign values to multiple global variables inside the method and then access them elsewhere, or

(iii) to use an out parameter to return the updated value back to the calling method, or

(iv) to use a ref parameter to modify the referenced parameter directly from inside the called method.

Well, there is another lesser-known way in .Net that allows you to return multiple values from a method without having to create an object or multiple variables, it is a feature called Tuple.

Here is some sample code in C# that shows you how to create and use a Tuple to return multiple values from a method:

public Tuple<int, string, string> GetEmployee()
    int employeeId = 23;
    string firstName = "John";
    string lastName = "Doe";

    //Create a tuple and return
    return Tuple.Create(employeeId, firstName, lastName);

Paras Wadehra
Microsoft MVP
Twitter: @ParasWadehra

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to send email from your Windows Phone 8.1 app

As part of the API changes made in the new Windows Phone 8.1 XAML programming model, the EmailComposeTask - and several other tasks - that were available in the Microsoft.Phone.Tasks namespace in Windows Phone 8 are no longer available.

Most of these have been replaced with a new way of performing the same tasks. For sending an email from within your app, the old way in Windows Phone 8 was as follows:


EmailComposeTask emailComposeTask = new EmailComposeTask();
emailComposeTask.Subject = "Subject";
emailComposeTask.To = "";

The new way in Windows Phone 8.1 to send an email from your app is as follows:


// Define Recipient
EmailRecipient sendTo = new EmailRecipient()
    Name = "Name of Recepient",
    Address = ""

// Create email object
EmailMessage mail = new EmailMessage();
mail.Subject = "this is the Subject";
mail.Body = "this is the Body";

// Add recipients to the mail object

// Open the share contract with Mail only:
await EmailManager.ShowComposeNewEmailAsync(mail);

Have fun,
Paras Wadehra
Microsoft MVP - Windows Platform Development
My WP Apps

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Xamarin Forms Shared project template error

The new Xamarin Forms Shared Project Template has a bug which causes the Windows Phone build to fail out of the box. You might see an error like:

The 'ProductID' attribute is invalid - The value 'b79569cb-1898-4dab-9173-afe40fa8559c' is invalid according to its datatype 'http://WPCommontypes:ST_Guid' - The Pattern constraint failed.

Note that the error message you receive might be a little different depending on what value is not defined properly. You are in luck though, as there is a simple fix for this.

You can fix the issue by modifying the WMAppManifest.xml file in your Windows Phone project. You need to add curly braces (are there any other style?) around the GUID values for the ProductID and PublisherID attributes. In some cases there might be other GUID values that are missing the curly braces too so add them there as well.

And that's it! This should resolve your error and get you on your path to a successfully building application :)

Paras Wadehra
Microsoft MVP - Windows Platform Development
My WP Apps

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to make your Windows Phone app vibrate?

There are 2 simple ways to make your Windows Phone app vibrate the device.

The first method makes use of the VibrateController class in the Microsoft.Devices namespace:

            VibrateController vibrateController = VibrateController.Default;

The second method makes use of the VibrationDevice class in the Windows.Phone.Devices.Notification namespace:

            VibrationDevice vibrationDevice = VibrationDevice.GetDefault();

In both these instances, the vibration will automatically stop after the amount passed as TimeSpan has elapsed.

You can call the corresponding Stop or Cancel method of the class to stop the vibration before the TimeSpan passed has elapsed.

Paras Wadehra
Microsoft MVP
Twitter: @ParasWadehra

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

System.UnauthorizedAccessException: Access is denied

So you are coding up your next big app and cruising along, but suddenly you face an error like the following:

{System.UnauthorizedAccessException: Access is denied. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070005 (E_ACCESSDENIED))
   at System.Runtime.CompilerServices.TaskAwaiter.ThrowForNonSuccess(Task task)
   at System.Runtime.CompilerServices.TaskAwaiter.HandleNonSuccessAndDebuggerNotification(Task task)
   at System.Runtime.CompilerServices.TaskAwaiter`1.GetResult()

Fear not, my friend, this is a simple case of Missing Capabilities.

For example, if you are trying to fetch the geolocation of a user, that means you are missing the ID_CAP_LOCATION capability. If you are coding a Windows Phone app, you need to open WMAppManifest.xml file in the designer in Visual Studio and then go to the Capabilities tab and select the checkbox next to ID_CAP_LOCATION.

Similarly, if you try to access other features and the corresponding capabilities are are not enabled you might see this error message as well.

Remember, there are 3 things that matter when accessing any device based features in your Windows apps: Capabilities, Capabilities, Capabilities.

Till next time,
Paras Wadehra
Microsoft MVP and Ambassador
Twitter: @ParasWadehra
My WP Apps

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

1 Million Downloads, Part-2, App Statistics

This is Part-2 in a series of blog posts I am writing to detail my experiences to get to 1 Million downloads on Windows Phone.

In this post, for the first time ever, I will make public detailed info around my app statistics which will show you how my top apps have performed since launch. I will also correlate some spikes I've seen with promotions I've run or new updates I've launched. Please note that the charts you see below are not from the same time period or include up to date downloads count info.

I'll start with statistics for my most popular app, Dictionary:


As you can see, getting featured in the Windows Phone Store really helps drive downloads for your app. The sustained organic growth period you see above is actually due to Dictionary winning first place in the Best Educational App category of the first-ever Windows Phone App Awards, beating competition from Microsoft and other competitors.

Now, let's take a look at SketchPad:

Again, the effect of getting featured in the Windows Phone Store clearly shows its benefits. I've been fortunate enough to have SketchPad featured in different countries across the world several times now.

Let's take a look at Unit Converter:

This chart shows you the bumps received in the download count just by updating the app to include new features and functionality. Users really like seeing their feedback being incorporated in the app.

Here's Events For Me:

This chart not only shows you the benefit of getting featured in the Windows Phone Store, but also getting a good review on WP Central. In this case, the WP Central review drove the most downloads in 1 day to the Events For Me app.

I've saved the best for the last though, be prepared to be flabbergasted, as I show you The DVLUP Effect. Here's a look at the downloads for my Chess game

And here's the interesting part. See that red circle with a minor bump on the road? That is what you see in the chart below.

This shows you how using campaigns from DVLUP, I was able to achieve The DVLUP Effect which dwarfed downloads from any other promotions. Soon after launch, in early 2012, the Chess game also won 1st place in Microsoft's You've Got Game competition.

Windows Phone Store placements and DVLUP Campaigns have been a god given gift for an indie developer like myself.

In Part 1 of this blog series, I shared the news about my apps hitting 1 Million downloads on Windows Phone and introduced you to my apps.
In Part 3 of this blog series, I will talk about mistakes made and lessons learned.
In Part 4 of this blog series, I will talk about monetization and promotion mechanisms I've used over the years and which ones have worked better than the others.

Paras Wadehra
Do you DVLUP?
Twitter: @ParasWadehra