NASA Space Apps Challenge 2016


Houston! We have Apps!

It’s that time of year again, and we are here to help. If you are participating in this years NASA Space Apps Challenge, below you will find the resources you need to do cool stuff like, Machine Learning, Facial Recognition, emotion tracking and more.

How can we help?

But first things first, to get started, you will need to grab yourself some free Microsoft Cloud to do your computations, and Microsoft Azure has you covered.

Need to connect with the Microsoft Space Apps Team for technical mentoring? Just email

Getting Connected – Setting up your Azure Pass

You should have received and Azure Pass from your organizer, all you need to do is take that card and head over to for step by step instructions on how to get set up.

Getting Started Tutorials

Project Oxford

Project Oxford allows developers to create smarter apps, which can do things like recognize faces and interpret natural language even if the app developers are not experts in those fields.

  • oxford2Visual tools: This service can analyze visual content to look for things like inappropriate content or a dominant color scheme. It also can detect and understand text in photos, such as a team name, and can sort photos by content, such as pictures of beaches, animals or food. Finally, it can automatically edit photos down to a recognizable and useful thumbnail for easy scanning.


  • oxford 1Face recognition: This technology automatically recognizes faces in photos, groups faces that look alike and verifies whether two faces are the same. It can be used for things like easily recognizing which users are in certain photos and allowing a user to log in using face authentication. It’s the same technology that is behind this fun new website that guesses how old a person looks based on a photograph.


Machine learning

ml1A fully managed cloud service that enables you to easily build, deploy, and share predictive analytics solutions. Azure Machine Learning means business. You can deploy your model into production as a web service in minutes—a web service that can be called from any device, anywhere and that can use any data source

Virtual Machines


Internet of Things

Web Apps

Grab the Meetup Slides

Get Inspired

If you are looking for some inspiration for your hack, check out the video below.

Space Apps New York City

Mean On Azure Episode 1

I just published my first episode in a series called Mean On Azure. In it I take you through my journey of discover in the Mean Stack in bite size videos showing you how to not only use the MEAN stack, but how to use it on Azure.

To view the whole series on Channel 9 go to

Hockey App in VSTS

imageThere were many announcements  at Connect(): 2015 about Visual Studio Online.  First and foremost, the name change to better reflect what developers were to expect when going there.  Visual Studio Online is now called Visual Studio Team Services (long live VSTS).   DevOps was a big part of the two day event and VSTS is a big part of DevOps.

In his presentation, Microsoft Technical Fellow, Brian Harry announced,

“a little over a year ago, we announced a beginning of a  journey, which was to open up team foundation server and visual studio online with web standards using rest, oauth, and services hooks” 

This led to the announcement at Connect(): 2015 of  Visual Studio Team Services extensions. Extensions enable you to create first-class integration experiences within Visual Studio Team Services.   Anyone can build extensions and make them available to the public. If you want to build one yourself, you can check out how to do that here.



You can find them if you sign on to your VSTS account and click on the store icon in the upper right of the screen.

HockeyApp is one of those extensions. But before we move forward, lets talk about the elephant in the room. HockeyApp has nothing to do with Hockey so what’s with the name? (Come on, I know you are wondering)  Well, if you dig around in the support pages for HockeyApp you can find the answer, and it makes sense once you read it.

Our product started as an open-source project named Hockey which allowed you to install iOS beta apps on your iPhone. Apple calls this installation process (outside the App Store) ad hoc distribution. The name Hockey was a word play on the Hoc in ad hoc distribution and the word key. When we launched the HockeyApp, the open-source project had already gained traction in the community, so we kept the name and added App at the end.

So when Brian Harry  made the announcement about acquiring HockeyApp almost a year ago, their goal was to integrate HockeyApp into Application Insights, which allows you to detect issues, diagnose crashes, and track usage in your mobile apps and web apps on Azure, IIS, or J2EE.  HockeyApp extends this and helps developers manage the process of developing apps for multiple platforms, specifically it specializes in these three key areas:

  • Crash reporting.  Fast and precise crash reporting with easy app integration, rich crash analysis and support for connecting directly to existing workflows and bug tracking systems.
  • Distribution and feedback.  Beta distribution and built-in user feedback system.
  • Cross-platform.  Support for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone provides a consistent developer experience across mobile devices




You can still use HockeyApp as a stand alone project, but what the announcement at Connect(): 2015 brought was an integration point so that you can manage the process in the same place you are tracking all the other aspects of your project, within VSTS.  This gives you all the great crash reporting and feedback data right into your VSTS environment. Once you add the extension, you can then add  a HockeyApp widget to your dashboard.





What this allows you to do, among other things,  is integrate with your bug reports. When a bug request is filed, while you are still inside VSTS you can launch HockeyApp to see if this is something that your users are experiencing already that you may not have noticed, or is it a new incident.



You can also dive into individual builds, communicate with your beta testers and turn requests/feedback from your users into work items with the click of a button all within the confines of VSTS.  This is a great move forward for continuous integration and testing for developers using Visual Studio Team Services.

If you wanted to try this out for yourself, first, you need to sign up on Visual Studio Team Services. Its free for individuals or teams up to 5.   Then sign up for HockeyApp here.  your first two apps are free.

Next, add HockeyApp to your VSTS by following this tutorial. Or  you can head over to Chris Risner’s post on setting up your project with VSTS and HockeyApp.

Happy coding


Whats new with VS Subscription






To subscribe or not to subscribe, that is the question. Whether ’tis fiscally responsible in the mind  to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (and lost developers), or take a subscription against a sea of licenses.   Ok, Ok, enough Hamlet, although that is the question here : Do you buy a license or a subscription?

If you have not heard the news, at our Connect() conference  Microsoft announced that in addition to different ways to license Visual Studio (Standalone, MSDN, Volume, etc.) we now offer what we are calling Cloud Subscriptions.  I for one am a big fan of this model.  I have quite a few software packages that I have purchased on the subscription model.  Personally, there are a number of things that are appealing to me.

  1. No huge upfront cost.
    It is much better for my cash flow :) to be able to pay monthly as opposed to handing over one lump sum at time of purchase.
  2. Flexibility
    If I decide that I am not using it, I can cancel it.
  3. Updates
    As opposed to most licenses, when there is an update I get it automatically.

But lets talk specifically about the Visual Studio Cloud Subscriptions.

( for sake of brevity, I will talk about the Professional Version of Visual Studio.  VS Enterprise follows the same guidelines with different price points)

Annual – If you purchase it for the whole year, your out of pocket costs are $539/yr which is less than half of the cost of the MSDN Subscription and only slightly more than the standalone license.   This is a non-perpetual license which means as opposed to buying a standalone license, when your subscription ends you are no longer able to use the software(unless you renew ).  But the benefit of getting the annual is that unlike the monthly, you get the full subscriber benefits.

Monthly – For the Professional version of Visual Studio, you will pay only  $45/mo which renews monthly. This means that you can cancel at any time and if your needs change, you can adjust your subscriptions accordingly.  If you keep this a full year, it ends up costing the same price as the annual subscription except you do not get the subscriber benefits.

Many of the developers I work with are in early stage start ups ( think, not much money) and as such, have a need to be able to spin up or spin down teams to fit their needs at any given time.  Being able to have monthly subscriptions that they can adjust during the year as they grow or shrink is a huge benefit.

VSTS – An additional benefit of these subscriptions is that you are able to connect to any team using Visual Studio Team Services (Formerly Visual Studio Online) to collaborate and share source code.

So which one is right for you?  Only you can decide that based on your current and future situation.  What I really like is that now you have the flexibility to find the right one to fit your current needs without having to break the bank.

If you want more information you can find a simple exlination of purchasing options here :

Or  a very detailed FAQ here:

Happy Coding.







The making of the Nokia Lumia 800

As a developer, and I mean as someone who gets his hands dirty in the code that is NEVER SEEN by whomever uses my software, I am always facinated by the design process that goes into making things “Look Good”.  In this short video, you can see how Nokia went about designing their new Nokia Lumia 800 phone which runs the Windows Phone OS codenamed Mango.   Let me know what you think.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Work on the Windows Phone Team

The jobs keep coming.  This is a great time to be a part of Windows Phone,  as you can see by my recent posts, there are a ton of great jobs out there for great people… Well here is one more.


Brandon Watson who runs Developer Experience for Windows Phone has a position on his team.   You can read his clever way of posting it here  (Its all in Tweets)


Or you can look for the official position description here.

Either way, I can attest, it is a cool way to spend your day…. So send in your resume and join the team.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.